A man who fought for the community
Milton Gralla, who built a modest trade magazine empire and ran for Congress in a North Jersey district, has died.
The Fort Lee and Boca Raton, Fla., resident was 84.
Mr. Gralla grew up in Brooklyn, studied journalism at City College of New York and began his career at a newspaper in Oklahoma.
He and his brother, Lawrence, purchased their first magazine, Kitchen Business, in 1955. They added other titles, including National Jeweler and Sporting Goods Business. United Newspapers of London in 1983 acquired Gralla Publications' 15 magazines and trade show division for $44 million.
Mr. Gralla, then living in Teaneck, waged an independent bid to unseat Republican Rep. William Widnall in 1974. President Richard Nixon had just resigned over Watergate and Mr. Gralla made public corruption and erosion of confidence in government his chief issues in a mostly door-to-door campaign. Widnall was indeed unseated but not by Mr. Gralla; the victor was a Democrat, Andrew Maguire.
Remaining in the public eye, Mr. Gralla campaigned against the 1976 referendum in which New Jersey voters approved casino gambling for Atlantic City. As chairman of Concerned Citizens Against Casino Gambling, he argued that gambling would contribute to crime and corruption, and he tried to refute claims that casinos would economically benefit the shore resort.
In his later years, he spoke to senior groups about how to avoid falling prey to scam artists and co-authored was co-author of a book, "How Good Guys Grow Rich: Proven Strategies to Achieve Financial Success and Lifelong Satisfaction."
Discussing the book in 1997, the casino gambling foe scoffed at the get-rich-quick mentality.
"The bookshelves are full of quick-formula books on how to get rich in a hurry," he told The Record. "It's about time somebody made fun of that because there are no shortcuts. Life is a marathon, not a sprint."
Mr. Gralla was generous with his riches. He supported, among other institutions, Brandeis University, the Solomon Schecter Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford and the Bergen County Y, a Jewish Community Center, in Washington Township. The latter is housed in the Shirley and Milton Gralla Building.
"This agency would not exist without his support," said Harold Benus, executive director of the Bergen County Y. "And not just because of his money, but because of his efforts to enable this community to unite and create a reservoir of hope for the future."
Benus described Mr. Gralla as a humble and good-humored man who "expressed his passions in a warm and acceptable way."
Mr. Gralla carried out one philanthropic act under the glare of publicity. After Palestinian terrorists boarded the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985 and killed a disabled New Yorker, Leon Klinghoffer, by throwing him overboard in his wheelchair, Mr. Gralla and his wife launched a memorial fund to fight terrorism and contributed the first $25,000. Klinghoffer's wife, Marilyn, worked in personnel at Gralla Publications.
Asked what the fund could accomplish, Mr. Gralla admitted he was a realist and said: "You can sit there and take it or you can fight back. You're not guilty if you lose. You're guilty if you don't try."
Mr. Gralla died July 11. He is survived by his wife, Shirley; his children, Dennis Gralla and Karen Galinko, both of Mahwah, and Edward Gralla of Virginia; two brothers, Lawrence of Hartsdale, N.Y., and Robert of Delray Beach, Fla., and six grandchildren.
Arrangements were by Gutterman and Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors, Hackensack.
Arrangements under the direction of:
Gutterman and Musicant Jewish Funeral Directors
402 Park Street | Hackensack, NJ 07601 | (201) 489-3800