After Mr. Rales left the orphanage he worked odd jobs all over the country for the next eight years. He was rejected for the military because of health issues so he worked at a shipyard in California during World War II.
He married his wife Ruth at age 25 and they lived in Pittsburgh, where he began his career in the home improvement industry, starting as a salesman and then founding his own company, Canyon Stone. The company grew throughout the East Coast.
Soon he founded Mid-South Building Supply Company inWashington, D.C., a distributor of building products to home builders and the home improvement industry. Over the next 25 years, Mr. Rales built up Mid-South and ultimately sold it to his employees, in reportedly the first such ESOP (employee stock ownership program) transaction in the U.S.
He and his wife became South Florida snowbirds in the early 1980s. After his wife passed away in 2004, the area eventually became his permanent home.
He established the Norman and Ruth Rales Foundation, and funds from this charitable foundation in 1979 helped create Ruth Rales Jewish Family Service, a non-sectarian social service agency in Boca Raton and Delray Beach.
In addition to his son Joshua, Mr. Rales is survived by sons Steven Rales, of Montecito, Calif.; Stewart Rales, of Los Angeles; and Mitchell Rales, of Potomac, Md.; and eight grandchildren.more » « less