Norman Gudelman, who survived the Holocaust, fought for the nascent nation of Israel, and eventually bought and expanded an uncle’s salvage business in Toledo, died Wednesday in Flower Hospital of cardiac arrest. He was 82.
He was in ill health for about two years, his son, Barry, said. Mr. Gudelman of Sylvania Township was a former president of the State Paper & Metal Co. Inc. and retired about 15 years ago.
He came to Toledo in 1958 from Winnipeg, his sister had settled there, at the behest of Morris Goodelman, an uncle, who by then had owned State Iron & Metal Co. on East Woodruff Avenue for about 20 years.
“He found it very challenging,” his son said. “It was all he had at the time.”
The business recycled society’s byproducts — scrap paper and metal and rags — though few used the term then.
Mr. Gudelman learned about the trade and about running a business from his uncle. In 1961, he and Ralph Worshtil, a longtime State Iron & Metal supervisor, bought the business from Mr. Goodelman. The partnership incorporated in 1975, with Mr. Gudelman as president. The next year, the business moved to enlarged facilities at 1118 W. Central Ave., where it remains. Along the way, the name became State Paper & Metal.
“He was a tough competitor,” his son said. “He was fair with his customers, and his employees enjoyed working for him.”
Born in 1931, in Lipcany, Romania, now in present-day Moldova, he spoke little of a childhood interrupted by Soviet and then Nazi occupations. At the urging of his wife, Fanny, as his 75th birthday approached, he wrote a letter to his children that covered the sweep of his experience, from carefree youth to suffering and loss. The Soviets sent some Jewish residents into exile and executed others. Occupation by Nazi Germany followed.
“Romanian soldiers came to our house and ordered all the Jews out,” Mr. Gudelman wrote. “Start walking. Leave the home, the business, our possessions and go.”
He was 10. He told The Blade in 2010 of marching from camp to camp, of begging for food, of catching sleep on cement floors in windowless rooms.
“They wanted to get rid of us,” he told The Blade. By war’s end, he and his sister, Tova, were orphans, their parents victims of the Holocaust. His sister was sent to a family in the Netherlands. He went to Palestine and joined the paramilitary at 16 and remained in the Army as Israel became an independent state. After eight years, he left to join his sister in Canada.
He and his wife, the former Feiga Cusnir, met on a blind date. She was in Toledo from Santiago, Chile, for an extended stay with relatives. When she announced she would be attending her brother’s wedding in Rio de Janeiro, Mr. Gudelman proposed. She stayed in Toledo to prepare for her own wedding. The couple married on Dec. 24, 1960.
Surviving are his wife Fanny Gudelman; son Barry Gudelman; daughter Dr. Rina Gudelman-Segall; sister Tova Weiszner, and four grandchildren.
Services will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Robert H. Wick/Wisniewski Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to Congregation B’nai Israel, where he was a member, or a charity of the donor’s choice.