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Ruth Edelman, who helped husband build public relations firm, dies at 84

Ruth Edelman died Sunday morning. She was 84.  |  Supplied photo

Ruth Edelman died Sunday morning. She was 84. | Supplied photo

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Updated: November 22, 2013 6:25AM

Ruth Edelman was the matriarch of the public relations firm her husband founded in Chicago in 1952, which has grown to be the world’s largest.

When Daniel J. Edelman, who died in January, opened the company’s first office in the Merchandise Mart, she picked out the lamps and furniture.

They had met several months earlier on a blind date.

“He took her for a drive and they parked along the lake and she figured, ‘Oh, I’m in trouble,’ but he didn’t make a move,” said their son Richard Edelman, who now runs the company.”They just talked and then he took her home and kissed her good night. And she thought, ‘Oh, what a gentleman’ and was quite smitten, and they got married a year later.”

Mrs. Edelman died Sunday morning at the University of Chicago Medical Center. She was 84 and had been battling leukemia.

“She was my dad’s kind of silent partner, but she made her opinion known to him privately about every decision,” her son said. “In the present generation, she would have been an executive, but in the ’50s she was the corporate wife.”

Mrs. Edelman’s social skills doubled as a networking conduit that her husband used to build the business.

“She’d go up to CEOs at parties and then bring my dad over. She was a networker supreme,” her son said.

“She never had a formal title while my dad was alive, but everybody knew she was the power behind the throne,” he said. “She didn’t need a title.”

After his father died, he named his mother deputy chairwoman of Edelman.

“My dad wasn’t there any more, but I wanted everyone to know she had as much clout with me,” he said.

Edelman, which is majority family-owned, has 4,800 employees in 67 cities spread across six continents. The company has headquarters in Chicago and New York.

One of the many philanthropic causes Mrs. Edelman focused on was mental health, because she was manic depressive.

“Her thing was: ‘I’m a manic depressive, I’m not crippled. I’m out here and able to function just fine. We shouldn’t discriminate against people who have this illness,’” Richard said.

She was also an advocate for the Save the Children Foundation; the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and the Committee for Economic Growth of Israel. She also had in interest in the arts, raising funds for the Lyric Opera and the Art Institute of Chicago.

She was born Ruth Rozumoff in Racine, Wis., in 1929. She majored in economics at the University of Wisconsin before moving to Chicago.

Mrs. Edelman also is survived by another son, John; a daughter, Renee; three granddaughters, and her sister, Rosalie Aronin. A private memorial service will be held at the Temple Sinai in Chicago.


Twitter: @mitchdudek

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