Known for his business prowess, Ephraim Radner was a founder of Geophysics Corporation of America in the late 1950s and helped the company expand, but colleagues were just as impressed by the way he worked with others.
“He was very people-oriented, which is not what you expect when you meet someone who is known primarily as a financial expert,’’ said Tom Liebermann, former chairman and chief executive of Kaye Instruments, a company whose board Mr. Radner led in the 1980s. “He was very warm, very fair, very knowledgeable, and also proved to be one of the finest human beings I have ever met.’’
Mr. Radner, known to all as Eph, died of cardiopulmonary arrest Feb. 1 in NewBridge on the Charles, a Dedham retirement community. He was 90.
He and his wife moved to Dedham two years ago, after living in Belmont for more than 50 years.
In its early years, Geophysics Corporation of America, which became GCA Corp., was mainly a contractor for the US government, and in particular for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Over time, GCA acquired other technology companies.
GCA and its subsidiaries manufactured integrated circuits for a variety of electronics, from watches to computers, and also branched out into other products, such as measuring equipment for laboratories and air pollution monitoring devices.
Acquiring subsidiaries let the company become greater than the sum of its parts, Mr. Radner said.
GCA allowed the businesses it bought “to do things they could not have done alone,’’ Mr. Radner told the Globe in 1977. “We are making one and one equal more than two.’’
During his tenure as chief financial officer, Mr. Radner helped turn the Bedford-based company into a research and development giant by bringing in investors such as Laurance S. Rockefeller, who for a time owned the biggest share of the company.
GCA’s founders didn’t feel a need to control equity in the company, Mr. Radner said.
“Here a founder is no different than anyone else,’’ he told the Globe in 1966. “Our philosophy is that the man we hire tomorrow may be the most important one. It tends to keep the founders in their place.’’
In Belmont, Mr. Radner lent his business and financial expertise to many aspects of town government and the school system. He was a Town Meeting member for 32 years and served on various committees.
“He was always a force in town,’’ said Dr. Paul Solomon, a former Belmont selectman. “Whenever he got up to speak at Town Meeting, people listened. What he had to say always carried weight.’’
In a Belmont Citizen-Herald report on Town Meeting in 1988, Mr. Radner was quoted as saying that “if we are going to make democracy work - and that’s a constant challenge - the thing you must avoid most of all is questioning the motives of your neighbor. Democracy is a participatory form of government when it works best. Here in Belmont we wring our hands when participation is low.’’
He didn’t limit his volunteer work to the community. In 1974, Mr. Radner became part-time volunteer treasurer at Children’s Hospital Boston. For the next three years, he worked with doctors, management, and the hospital’s board to strengthen the institution’s finances.
When he gave up his duties as treasurer, the board presented Mr. Radner with a plaque that thanked him for serving “with distinction and devotion’’ and for leaving “an indelible mark on the Children’s Hospital Medical Center and its financial philosophy.’’
Mr. Radner remained on the board until 1986, the year he retired from GCA. Afterward, he served on the boards of three corporations, in addition to that of Kaye Instruments.
Ephraim Radner was born and raised in Springfield, the son of immigrants from the Soviet Union.
In 1943, he graduated with a degree in English from Massachusetts State College, which became the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Mr. Radner joined the Army Air Corps as part of a meteorology program created by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and graduated from MIT in 1944 with a master’s degree. He then worked for the military on an airborne radar system that predicted ground weather, and he helped train pilots to use the system.
Upon leaving the service, Mr. Radner attended Harvard Business School, graduating in 1948.
For the next 10 years he worked for the geophysics division of the Air Force Cambridge Research Center. In 1958, he and two colleagues founded GCA.
In 1950, Mr. Radner married Babette Solomon. They met on a double date while he was in the service, though they were not paired with each other.
She said Mr. Radner waited a year and a half, until the friend who had been her date that night had married someone else, before calling to ask her out.
“He was just perfect in every way,’’ Mr. Radner’s wife said. “He was so easygoing, and so generous.’’
Their daughter Judy of Oakland, Calif., said he was a great listener, with a gift for making anyone he spoke with feel special.
“He kept learning, kept expanding his scope and capabilities all his life,’’ she said. “He was strong and capable up to the day he died.’’
In his free time, Mr. Radner enjoyed theater, classical and swing music, and vacationing with his family in Maine.
As Mr. Radner’s health declined, “he was very decisive,’’ his wife said.
“He was the one who made the decision that it was time to go. Then he organized it the way he organized everything. We had the whole family gathered around him.’’
In addition to his wife and daughter Judy, Mr. Radner leaves a son, James of Toronto; two other daughters, Wendy Taubes of Concord, and Nancy of Watertown; and five grandchildren.
Services were held.
In addition to his other civic work, Mr. Radner served on the board and various committees of Beth El Temple in Belmont, where he began a career-counseling service that was available to people of all religions.
“We are all part of many communities,’’ Lieberman said. “Eph’s consisted of his work, the town he lived in, his temple, and most important, his family and his extended family.’’