Growing up in humble circumstances in Malden in the 1930s, Morton E. Ruderman worked hard through childhood and college, succeeded in various business ventures, and spent the rest of his life helping others.
He cofounded the Westwood-based global health care technology firm Meditech and became a leading philanthropist in Greater Boston’s Jewish community, founding the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Though her husband was successful in business, Marcia Ruderman said he wanted to be remembered by those who knew, loved, and were inspired by him and by the many others he helped who never met him “as a man who helped people.’’
Mr. Ruderman died Oct. 12 in Brigham and Women’s Hospital of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. He was 75 and lived in Boca Raton, Fla., where he and his wife moved in 2004 for the milder climate, after living in Lynnfield with their family for 40 years.
His wife said he was diagnosed with the hereditary disorder 10 years ago and was on oxygen support 24 hours a day. Despite failing health and medical treatments, she said, her husband was able to carry on until the past winter.
“Mort always told me he had a very fulfilling and accomplished life, and was thrilled with his children and grandchildren,’’ she said.
The Ruderman Family Foundation operates in Greater Boston and Israel, where Mr. Ruderman’s son, Jay, and daughter-in-law, Shira, live in Rehovot. The foundation focuses on new approaches to enable people with disabilities to realize full inclusion in their community.
Through an endowment in his mother’s name, Mr. Ruderman gave scholarships to seven Orthodox schools in Greater Boston.
Most recently, the family endowed a Jewish studies chair at Northeastern University, Mr. Ruderman’s alma mater.
Mr. Ruderman and his wife also quietly helped many others who were starting out on new ventures, offering funds, encouragement, and often both.
David Rosenberg of Marblehead, a car dealer whose father grew up with Mr. Ruderman in Malden, was among the young people he helped. Mr. Ruderman and one of his boyhood friends from Malden, Arthur Epstein, supported him with funds and advice during the 1990s.
“Mort believed that accumulation of wealth for its own sake is irrelevant,’’ Rosenberg said. “It’s what you do with that wealth which is worthwhile, that is important. I learned from Mort the importance of giving back to the community.’’
In a family-made videotape last summer, Mr. Ruderman said he had “been very lucky.’’
“I made a lot of money and did very well in real estate,’’ he said. “There was no reason not to give back, and we helped a lot of people. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love Marcia. I’ve had a wonderful life and family. I wouldn’t change it for anything.’’
Epstein and Mr. Ruderman had been friends since they were 11 and were in the real estate business together for 30 years.
“Mort was always kind and considerate of others,’’ said Epstein, who lives in Marblehead. “He made a difference on everything he touched. He never forgot where he came from. He had a great sense of humor, and his grandchildren were his pride and joy.’’
Born and raised in Malden, Mr. Ruderman was one of two children. Their father was a peddler who went door to door selling household goods. Their mother worked in a factory as a seamstress, said his sister, Myrna Lipsky of Stoughton.
“Mort always did things for our parents,’’ she said. “He worked as a paperboy, a soda jerk, and shoveling snow.’’
His wife said they still have the wagon he used to peddle newspapers.
“He worked his way through Northeastern with all kinds of jobs,’’ his sister said. “During Northeastern’s six-month work-study program, one of his jobs was at the State House.’’
Mr. Ruderman graduated from Northeastern with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering in 1959. He did his ROTC requirement stateside in the Army as a lieutenant. Afterward, he joined Digital Equipment Corp. as a medical technology salesman.
He cofounded Meditech in 1969 and left five years later to cofound CRES Development Co., a real estate development firm, and several other companies.
Mr. Ruderman married Marcia Jortner in 1964. She said they lived in their first home together, “a little Cape in Malden,’’ while she taught third grade in Concord, before she left the job when their first child was born.
“Mort’s wealth came about gradually,’’ she said. “When he became successful, he wanted to give back. After his father was treated at Beth Israel Hospital, he created an endowment there in geriatrics.’’
No matter how successful he became, his family said, Mr. Ruderman never lost his common touch.
“My father was a workaholic,’’ said his daughter, Sharon Shapiro of Brookline. “He instilled the work ethic, the importance of family and giving to the community, at an early age. He wasn’t impressed by a person’s importance, but treated each person with respect.’’
Jay Ruderman, president of the family foundation, said his father always cared most about people. He recalled one instance in which a young venture capitalist from Israel made a presentation for Mr. Ruderman.
“Dad asked him, ‘What is more important in investing in a company: the idea behind the company or the person running it?’ The young man thought the idea was more important ‘because if we have a great idea we can always replace the executive.’ My father told him he was wrong because ‘you always invest in people.’ ’’
Services have been held for Mr. Ruderman, who in addition to his wife, son, daughter, and sister, leaves another son, Todd of South Miami, Fla., and 10 grandchildren.
“Dad was genuinely interested in other people,’’ Todd said. “He took the time to connect with them. He was always giving, even when he didn’t have the money. I think his generation in Malden of immigrant parents felt they had to make something of themselves, and they did.’’