Philip Rothman, who parlayed the house he built for his family in Englewood into a lucrative career constructing single-family homes and industrial buildings across North Jersey, died Monday in Fort Lee.
Mr. Rothman, the father of Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Englewood, was 90. The cause was congestive heart failure, his son said.
"If you were to ever ask my father what he valued most in a human being, it was to be a person's willingness to work hard and have absolute integrity," the congressman said.
The son of Polish immigrants, Mr. Rothman grew up on the streets of New York City, looking, friends said, like a cross between Marlon Brando and James Garner.
He was a gymnast in high school. But his work ethic and intellectual curiosity were the driving forces behind his future endeavors.
By age 10, he was making deliveries for his father's tailor |shop in Astoria, Queens. After high school he became a silversmith and later a tool-and-die maker machinist, working at and supervising an aircraft parts manufacturing facility in Detroit during World War II
While in Detroit, Mr. Rothman and his brother, Carl, invented a fuse for the military for America's version of the Nazis' V-1 "buzz bomb," the world's first operational cruise missile. The bomb went into production toward the end of the war. For his effort, Mr. Rothman received the "E" for Excellence Award from the military, his son said.
"He used to tell stories about how he invented it, the competition," the congressman said.
Not yet 30 years old, Mr. Rothman returned to the East Coast in 1949, settling in New Jersey to |start a family with his wife, Muriel Fischer Rothman.
He used money had had saved to buy a parcel of land in Englewood. He learned to read building blueprints and engineering drawings, and built a house on Van Nostrand Avenue.
Over the years, he built dozens of single-family homes in Englewood, expanding his operations to the construction of small industrial offices and warehouses across southern Bergen County.
In the 1950s, Mr. Rothman became involved in charity and civic work, volunteering to help build the Jewish Community Center on Tenafly Road in Englewood and serving on its board of trustees. When the Englewood JCC sought to move, he was consulted on the construction of the JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly.
Mr. Rothman was also an active fundraiser and donor for Israel bonds and the United Jewish Appeal. He was also a lifetime member of Temple Sinai of Tenafly.
In the mid-1960s, he built a new home in Tenafly for his family, which by then had expanded to include three children. In the early 1980s the couple began spending more time in Florida, taking up residence and living in Boca Raton for most of each year. They moved their New Jersey residence to Fort Lee in 1996.
"My dad, notwithstanding the success he achieved in his life, never forgot his very humble beginnings," Steve Rothman said. "He had no interest in celebrities, in people with fancy titles or [those] who held powerful positions."
Mr. Rothman is survived by his wife of 65 years; a daughter, Susan Bogatin of New York City; his sons, Dr. Arthur Rothman of Tenafly and Steve Rothman of Englewood; a sister, Ann Lefkowitz of Franklin Lakes; seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral service will be Wednesday at noon at Temple Sinai of Bergen County, 1 Engle St.reet, Tenafly. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that tax-deductible donations be made in honor of Mr. Rothman's grandson, Jack Rothman, to Aging With Autism Inc., 726 Route 202 south, Suite 320-361, Bridgewater, NJ 08807. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org