Sy Grudko was born Seymour Grudka (possible misspelling) on October 3, 1927, in Brooklyn, New York, according to the New York, New York Birth Index, at Ancestry.com. Passenger lists said Grudko’s parents, Sam and Ida “Grudki”, and two siblings, Isidor and Hilda, were Polish emigrants who arrived in New York City: his father in August 1920; his mother and siblings in November 1921. The family settled, with help from Sam’s brother-in-law, in Brooklyn. Three months later Sam “Grudko” declared his intention to become a citizen.
The 1925 New York state census recorded the “Grudka” family of five in Brooklyn at 280 Sumpter Street. Two-year-old Rose was latest addition to the family. Her father was a carpenter. Sam Grudko became a naturalized citizen on January 4, 1926. His Brooklyn home was at 854 Stone Avenue. Grudko’s mother was naturalized on November 24, 1942.
In the 1930 census (below), the “Groudkay” family resided in Brooklyn at 769 Hopkinson Avenue. However, Grudko and sister Rose were not listed. It’s not clear if the omission was intentional or they lived elsewhere.
The entire Grudko family was named in the 1940 census. They lived at 1721 East 14 Street in Brooklyn. Grudko was twelve years old and had completed the seventh grade. He attended James Madison High School and, apparently, did not graduate.
On October 3, 1945, Grudko signed his Word War II draft card which said he was unemployed. He enlisted on the first day of November. Grudko’s record said he was a commercial artist who had two years of high school.
In a telephone interview with Dr. Michael J. Vassallo, Grudko said he was discharged in 1946 and used the G.I Bill to enroll at the Art Students League in Manhattan. He studied illustration and anatomy. In late 1947 he heard about an apprenticeship opening at Timely Comics and took samples to Timely’s office in the Empire State Building. Stan Lee hired him to be on the staff. Grudko’s first work was a two-page Human Torch filler. In the bullpen he sat in front of Syd Shores. The staff was let go in 1949.
The New York, New York Marriage License Index, at Ancestry.com, said Grudko and Selma J. Launberg obtained a marriage license in Brooklyn on January 20, 1950.
American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Grudko drew the comic strip So It Seems which was distributed by the Bell Syndicate. The strip originated with Lou Cameron on March 3, 1952. Cameron became very busy and asked Grudko to do it. Lou Cameron’s Unsleeping Dead (2018) said Cameron sold the strip to Grudko for one dollar. The last strip signed by Cameron was September 13, 1952. From September 15 to 20, the strips were signed by Cameron and Grudko. The series was drawn and signed by Grudko from September 22, 1952 to March 21, 1953 although Cameron’s name remained on the strips.
During the 1950s the comic book industry contracted and many freelancers left the field. In the mid-1950s Grudko moved his wife, daughter and son to Lindenhurst in Long Island, New York. Grudko went to work for his brother in retailing. In 1961 he started his own business in Kings Park. That was followed by his successful women’s clothing shop, the Cheryl Ann Shop, in Farmingdale, through the mid-1990s. Grudko and his wife were mentioned in the Babylon Beacon newspaper November 30, 1967; December 14, 1967; November 4, 1971; and June 8, 1972. The Farmingdale Observer, September 16, 1971, mentioned Grudko and his shop. The Farmingdale Post, February 28, 1974, said Grudko was the vice president of the merchant’s association.
Grudko passed away on February 18, 2011. He was survived by his wife, three children, seven grandchildren, and two sisters. The Social Security Death Index said his last residence was Hainesport, New Jersey.
Special thanks to Diane Schoer, Grudko’s daughter, who provided additional information and corrections.