Memorial Service -
Obituary of Edward Rudnitsky
Edward Rudnitsky 87 of Sarasota passed away peacefully February 6, 2019.
He was an optimist and non-conformist who as a husband, father and friend always encouraged his loved ones to follow their best natures.
Ed was born September 20, 1931 to Rose and Abe Rudnitsky on South Street in Philadelphia. A graduate of Penn State, he sailed the world as a Navy officer on a destroyer. He then settled in the Boston area after finishing Harvard Law. He spent the last several years enjoying the people and natural beauty of Sarasota.
In 1968, determined not to lose the opportunity of his lifetime, Ed followed Vicki Rosenfeld to the Greek isle of Rhodes. After a rapid courtship, they shared their lives together for half a century.
His early attempts to teach her the Socratic Method came to naught, so instead he raised his three children to love a good argument.
Ed is survived by Vicki, two sons - Ben and Jake - and soon to be five grandchildren. He lost his only daughter, Lexi, in 2005.
Ed penned several books over the years, but his masterpiece was his life, which he lived surrounded by love, laughter and debates. He never stopped making friends and never forgot those he had.
Family and friends are invited to remember Ed’s life and smile at Temple Sinai, 4631 S. Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota at 11am on Friday, February 15.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Project, c/o George Rosenfeld, 69 Greene St., New York, NY 10012, a foundation created in memory of his daughter that supports young poets. More information about the foundation can be found here: https://www.perseabooks.com/lexi-rudnitsky-prize-award/
Hebrew Memorial Funeral Services, Sarasota / Manatee is serving the family.
Dad was born in the fall of 1931, the second son of Abe and Rose Rudnitsky. Both
their families had fled a life of persecution and poverty under the Tsars to seek
the promise of America. Dad always found it amusing that his youngest son Jake
would return to live in Russia 100 years later. I can hear his laugh now, as he
joked how ironic it was that Jake found love and happiness in the same place his
Dad and his brother Marty grew up in South Philadelphia in the midst of the Great
Depression. Abe (or Pop as we knew him) worked in the garment trade around
the clock to provide for the family while Rose raised the boys. But even after the
depression lifted and the family business boomed, Pop never took a day off and
didn’t carve out much time for family. Dad didn’t begrudge Pop for being a
workaholic but knew it wasn’t the path for him. He instead resolved to spend as
much time as he could with his friends and family.
Although by no means rich, the Rudnitsky family always had enough due to Pop’s
diligence. Dad would later learn how generous his mother had been during the
Depression when, at Rose’s funeral, countless friends and family told him of the
money she’d quietly slip them to help them stay afloat. Dad inherited this
kindness and desire to help.
His childhood was a happy one, growing up in a Jewish neighborhood of Philly. His
prowess at baseball in the schoolyard earned him the nickname “Rud the Crud
who could kill the pill at will,” which always gave us the giggles as kids. As a
young man he was a lifeguard in New Jersey, where he regularly rescued
drowning victims - inner-city kids who’d never learned to swim. Swimming was
something he loved to do for the rest of his life. Whether in Boston, on the
shores of the Mediterranean or the beaches in Sarasota, he would swim out into
the sea until he was a dot on the horizon.
After high school, Dad enrolled in Kenyon College in Ohio. He lasted one year
before transferring to Penn State. When he took me to look at colleges, I asked
what went wrong. It wasn’t the school or his friends but the geography of the
Midwest that prompted him to transfer – the scenery was too flat. He lived in the
moment and took such pleasure in the beauty of everyday life. Throughout our
childhood, Dad was always singing the lyrics from a song in a 1920s operetta.
“Golden days of love and youth and springtime “. Every Rudnitsky knows them
well. He bellowed this song from the beaches of Lindos in Greece, to the ski
slopes of Loon Mountain, to the diving board in Weston. Every day was a golden
day to Dad.
After college, Dad joined the Navy as a navigation officer on the USS Potter.
Given that planning and organizing was always Mom’s role while Dad was
smelling the roses, it always surprised me the ship never ran aground. He loved
serving in the Navy and saw the world before jet travel made it easy. His life
could have turned out very differently when he was discharged, as he planned to
hitch a ride from Tokyo to Tahiti. Luckily for us, his navigation skills finally failed
him and he couldn’t find the boat on a sweltering day. He returned to the States
instead and enrolled in law school.
He credited Harvard with giving him his first taste of intellectual freedom after the
suffocating environment of 1950s America, so it was no surprise he remained in
Boston after graduation. It was a tumultuous time in the late 60s with the
Vietnam war tearing the country apart. He represented over a thousand people
looking to avoid the draft, including some he remained friends with until his
Then, in 1968, lightning struck. Vicki Rosenfeld moved to Cambridge into the
apartment above a friend of his. If you believe in fate, Dad would soon work a
divorce case in which Mom was scheduled to be a witness. He recused himself
and the rest is history.
I was born in 1971. Dad, in keeping with his resolve to spend more time with
loved ones, made a couple of savvy investments, quit his law practice and moved
the family to Lindos, Greece. With sporadic electricity and a lot of downtime, it
wasn’t long before Lexi arrived. Days were spent swimming, spearfishing, playing
with the kids. Dad was in his element and might have stayed forever if Mom
hadn’t felt the tug of home. Despite his excellent debate skills, there were two
golden rules he lived by. Rule one: mom is always right. Rule two: if mom is
wrong, see rule one. The family would soon settle in Weston.
While Dad never went to an office, he kept his mind sharp. One of his most
passionate interests was World War 2. He watched every documentary, read
every book and dissected it from every angle. His knowledge of the campaigns,
politics and personalities of the world’s bloodiest conflict was remarkable,
superior to any history teacher or professor I ever had.
Dad’s charmed life was upended by Lexi’s shocking death. He and Mom faced this
unimaginable tragedy together. That he continued to provide love and support to
others even when fate had ripped him asunder is to me the definition of courage.
Dad was an eternal optimist, a doting father and husband who took glorious
pleasure in small things, was an accomplished attorney, was well read, and loved
to write poetry and novellas. But when people reached out to us in this week,
these attributes have been hardly mentioned. Instead, the overriding theme from
everyone is how kind and caring he was. Just as Rose had done for her
community in the Great Depression, Dad did for everyone who touched his life
and needed a little help.
Over the years, we had a steady flow of friends staying with us for months or
years when they needed help. We would drive out of our way after visiting
Grams Rose to deliver Deli food to a disabled friend of his. He took into our home
a girl struggling with her own family who needed support. He was always there
for his sick nephew who needed help, even after the rest of the family wrote him
off. I spoke with an old friend this week who told me that Ed had been more of a
father to him than his own.
These are just a few stories among so many where he impacted people’s lives in
big and small ways. He had a kind word for everyone, he was always there to
praise you and build you up. He saw the good in people and made sure to tell
them about it.
This last year, as his body and mind were failing, Dad knew that his time was
coming. He wasn’t worried or afraid for himself but instead made great efforts to
prepare us for this day. He told my mom every day, well actually dozens of times
a day, how much he loved her. He said goodbye to me and Jake, to Jessica and
Sandro and Zalina, to Sam, Alexandra, Abigail and Gabe, giving toasts and hugs
and “farewell addresses”. This is the easiest mourning process this family will
ever have, not because we are not sad or won’t miss him terribly, but because
Wide made it so.
In 1971 I got arrested for throwing a burning mattress out the window of my 5 th floor walkup apartment
during a sangria-filled candle party. I was a 19 year old goofball teenager and a nice Jewish girl. I went to
court in downtown Boston with my knees shaking. The judge said, Marsha Rudnitsky. Are you related to
Edward Rudnitsky? I didn’t want to admit that I was but I couldn’t lie to a judge so I whispered back, yes,
he’s my uncle. He looked in my eyes and said, case dismissed. Boy, Uncle Ed must be more important
than I think.
And he was more important than I thought. ` ` `
My journey with Ed began in September, 1970. I was 18, I needed a direction, my parents had cut me
off. I remembered I had an uncle, a hippie, wore wire rim glasses in the 60’s. We had visited him once
and he lived in a nifty apartment in Cambridge, MA. He was a criminal trial lawyer. He defended
murderers and famous convicts on appeal and draft dodgers during the Vietnam War. So I hopped a bus
from South Jersey to Cambridge, showed up at his door unannounced and said here I am, your niece.
This near stranger and his beautiful new wife took me in and he acted as if I’d been his closest relative
for 18 years. That’s who Uncle Ed was for me.
When I fell in love with a Catholic meditating handyman/plumber my parents disowned me. That was a
tough thing for a Jewish girl. But Uncle Ed stuck by me and supported my decision to marry and in 1977
he gave me away at our wedding. He knew he would take grief from his only sibling, my dad, for that.
Still he managed to keep a relationship with his brother. He and my dad would meet in Philly after both
had moved away, to take care of their mother, my grandmother. My Dad would drag his feet about
every decision that had to be made and Ed patiently would explain away my Dad’s bad behavior.
Sometimes he wouldn’t talk to Ed. Except once at one of their mother’s doctor appointments they were
sitting in the waiting room and my Dad excitedly pointed to a man sitting across from them and he
whispered to Ed a little too loudly. That’s Louie Stein! He’s a multi-millionaire!
Ed extended his generosity decades later to my own late brother whose life had disintegrated. I was so
emotionally impacted by my brother’s descent to homelessness that I was unable to go see him. Yet
Uncle Ed made the journey to Philadelphia alone and found him. My brother was living in squalor but Ed
managed to see through it all to report back to me with much compassion. He helped us with funeral
expenses for my brother, a man who had wronged him.
Walter and Ed went into business together in 1974 when Walter was 25 and I 22. They were partners
for 13 years. They had no contract, just a handshake. We never needed a contract because Ed put our
interests ahead of his own. We bought a motel together here on Lido Beach. Those were glorious years.
He and Vicki would come down with their kids, spend Christmas and winter breaks with us. Ed would
walk to the Gulf of Mexico every day, even when the water temperature was in the sixties, dive in and
swim out so far that a man would have worried, except he’d been a lifeguard and he was Uncle Ed.
Many of you have heard me say Ed was the smartest man I ever knew. He had a great memory and read
history extensively. He predicted 9/11 just a few weeks before it happened. But every now and then
smart people do dumb things. Once he babysat Jake, put him down for a nap, forgot he was babysitting
and drove off to run an errand. Once in Boston Ed volunteered to walk to the town center in the dead of
winter to pick up a pizza we had ordered and we thought what a generous offer, until he came back
carrying the pizza box vertically. When we opened it all the cheese had slid to the bottom of the box.
And, of course, he was the only one willing to eat it.
Who goes to Harvard Law School, develops a solid criminal defense practice, then quits after a dozen
years to spend a year in Greece with a wife, a one year old and another on the way? But if he hadn’t
done that I never would have met Walter. Ed and Vicki had rented out their place in Cambridge for that
year. Walter knew Ed through his law partner. He went to Ed’s apartment to store some tools for him.
Tools which Ed never touched in all his years on earth. Once again, when I needed to find myself, I was
living with Ed and Vicki and that’s how we met.
Maybe Greece is where he developed his love of food. He wasn’t in the category of those who eat to
live. He lived to eat.
In 1980 Walter and I went with Ed and Vicki back to Greece where they planned to spend a summer.
Who takes 3 kids under 10 to another country for three months with no lodging booked in advance? We
ended up on an outpost island that had pretty much nothing on it. The ferry called only once a week and
we were stuck. We managed to find 3 rooms, above a makeshift bakery. So that made it ok by Ed. 11
years ago the 4 of us went to Paris. We stayed for a week in a 5 th floor walkup. Which also was ok by him
because it was above a French bakery. I sorted through my photos this week and there was Ed, eating.
About 20 years ago Ed began reconnecting with cousins he hadn’t seen in decades. He had dozens, his
dad being one of 11 and his mother one of 8, and he was the youngest cousin. He explained to me that
he had taken a 40 year vacation from his family and had returned home. And he was such a well-loved
guy that his cousins picked up right where they left off. He visited them along the East Coast, hosted
them and their families in Boston and Sarasota.
Decades ago Ed wrote a novel based on his years as a lawyer. About a dozen years ago he began work
on another novel. He sat at his desk to write for hours daily. No one bothered him when he was writing.
Although about 8 months ago he stopped to show me his desktop calendar. On the date we were to sell
our big house in Boston he had an asterisk and at the bottom of the page, “This is the day Marsha and
Walter become multi-millionaires”. He worked tirelessly on this novel for years. He wove through it his
unending, unconditional adoration for Vicki.
In 2009 our youngest son Zack asked Ed if he would perform the ceremony to commission Zack into the
US Army. Ed could do this because he’d been a naval officer. The only problem was his uniform of 50
years prior no longer fit. With the help of someone here who shall remain nameless, he weaseled his
way onto the naval base in Newport, Rhode Island and got outfitted in dress whites. He showed up at
West Point looking so dapper that he was mistaken for an admiral and everyone there saluted him.
Ed was such a happy guy who always saw an ultimate best outcome that years ago, in the midst of a
political argument, in frustration, I yelled at him, you know what you are? You’re a damn delusional
Three things Uncle Ed said to me stand out.
1: Try to break a law every day.
2: If you want to know if you should marry someone, spend two weeks with them in Wendover, Utah.
And 3: it’s good to say I was wrong more frequently. That wisdom changed my life for the better.
So Uncle Ed, it’s not because we sold that house in Boston for all the money last year but because I was
so lucky to have known you. You can change the date on your calendar to that day in September, 1970
when you took me into your life. That’s the day I became a multi-millionaire.
For many years I have had the thought that some day I was going to write Ed Rudnitsky’s
eulogy. He was a lot older than me and he was a Bigger-Than-Life character who I was close to
Ed was a great guy. He lived a full 87 years which is remarkable since he was the worst driver I
have ever seen. Vicki would say to me do you want to go to the movies? My next question
wasn’t “what movie do you want to see”, but rather “who is driving”?
If you never drove with Ed, I can describe it very easily. You know those TV movies that you
see that are pretty good but have a gruesome graphic scene where someone in the room
covers their eyes and says “Is it over?” That’s what it was like driving with Ed.
Once he was driving me to the airport from his house in Weston and he said “I can make it
down this hill and through the intersection without hitting the brakes if I just hug the right
hand turn real close”. And I thought “I wish I had a helmet”.
So there must be a God because there is no logical way to explain why this guy lived so long. I
can’t tell you how many times the four of us would be going somewhere and Vicki would
declare in a very Stern voice “Walter’s driving.”
Marsha and I were very close to Ed. Ed called Marsha “Marsha bear” and he called me
“Voltaire”, because of my philosophical nature. For as far back as I can remember, at least 20
years, he never called me Walter always Voltaire.
At Ed’s 70th birthday party I did a roast of him and I said I had one question about this guy
“what does he do for a living?”
17 years have passed since then and I still have never seen any proof that this man ever
worked. There was a lot of writing, writing, writing, shhhhhhhh, Ed’s writing. I would come
downstairs in Watertown or here in Florida and he was always writing a book.
By now he should have had more books than James Patterson and JK Rowling combined.
For those of you who are sitting there thinking “this guy is being mean to the dead” I need to
tell you something about Ed. He had an extraordinary ability to laugh at himself.
My son Nate said that uncle Ed had the best booming laugh he ever heard. It was a joy to
And more than anyone I ever knew, Ed could laugh at himself. It was an extremely endearing
quality. Any man who could let his kids call him “wide load” had a great ability to laugh at
himself. They didn’t call him dad, or pops, or even Ed, it was “wide load”. Which was later
shortened to “wide”, a little more respectful.
Strangely, a month ago I was with Mo Guttman. I must have had some sort of premonition. I
said to him “I think I should write a eulogy for uncle Ed”. Mo called him “uncle Eddie”, which
was quite endearing since he is not related to Ed, but just one of the many people who loved
Ed. Ed is so charmingly self-deprecating that I thought “why wait until he’s gone? If I write it
now, I can read it to him and he would love it. Why not celebrate him while he’s alive so he
can enjoy it too.” Sadly, he passed away unexpectedly before I could write it. ……… Vicki and
Ed had a running joke for years that I was always stealing his tools. That was funny because
that would be like Julia child stealing a little kids playdough kitchen set. Whatever Ed had, they
weren’t tools. You know those little tiny hammers and those small screwdrivers? To me they
were toys. No, he might’ve had some tools but I never saw him with a tool in his hand in fifty
years....... unless I was fixing something at his house and he was handing it to me.
When Marsha and I were living with Ed and Vicki in Watertown, Ed, to his credit, wanted to
throw me out because I’m a pain in the ass to live with. But, Vicki wouldn’t let him because she
liked having everything in the house working.
Years ago a lot of people made fun of the way Ronald Reagan was devoted to “his Nancy”. Ed
was like that to Vicki. If Vicki said we were staying, then we were staying. Ed’s devotion to
Vicki was a beautiful thing not something I would make fun of. But at times it was kind of
funny. If Vicki said “let’s go to the theater to see that biography of Stalin”, Ed would say “Sure,
Victoire…..that sounds great”. If Vicki said I want this red leather couch from Blooomingdales,
the next day they had a red leather couch from Bloomingdales. Vicki was a goddess to Ed. I’m
just really grateful Vicki never said “Hey, I have an idea, let’s move to Russia.”
For years Ed wanted to move to Florida but Vicki didn’t want to… So they never moved here.
Then after two winters of living with us in Florida, Vicki changed her mind and suggested they
move down to Florida. After some time they started the process of moving to Florida… Maybe
… 20 seconds later.
For the last five or so years we have had New England patriots parties at my house. People
would bring food. Vicki would make the desserts. Ed would come over and he was a huge fan…
Of the food. After three pieces of pie Vicki would say “Ed you’ve had enough pie“, but Ed
would think “but there’s more pie left!” Ed loved Vicki‘s pies he loved her food in general.
She’s always been a great cook and he was always a great eater.....So it was a match made in
Ed’s love of food was symbolic of his love of life. He loved traveling with his family. He loved
his kids and grandkids. He loved watching the patriots and the Red Sox. He loved Florida. He
loved walking outdoors. He loved swimming. He loved tennis. He loved a good argument and if
you haven’t argued with Ed then it’s clear you’ve never met Ed. Ed never shied away from
taking an unpopular stand. At a Patriots party three weeks before he died, Marsha asked our
friend Bill to read aloud the poem Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night. Bill has a thick Irish
accent so it was just beautiful when he read aloud to 20 people this Dylan Thomas
masterpiece, written to his own father on his death bed, begging him for just a few more
moments of life. The room was stunned and silent. Ed slowly stood up, on his own, and
declared to the room, “I don’t like it!”
Ed argued with his kids, with me, with Marsha, with Stanley, with Nancy and George, my
brother John and God knows how many of Vicki’s friends.
I used to get calls from Vicki saying “You’ve got to come over here. Ed is having a bad
argument with Dorothy. He’s excommunicating her from the house.” I’d say “What’s the big
deal? He’s done that with Me, Nancy, Gene, George, Jake, John. Listen, Vicki, I don’t have
enough time to finish this list… It will all pass in a couple of weeks. Everything will return to
normal. Don’t worry about it.”
Vicky, because of her great and giving nature, would sometimes be taken advantage of by
family and friends. Ed was so devoted to her that he would take a stand even if she didn’t
want him to. He wasn’t cantankerous, he was protective. In that way he was a man of principle
I think Ed was very misunderstood in this regard. He was extremely protective of Vicki and the
family. He believed that he was protecting his family by taking both his political and personal
He never was mean. He never was spiteful. He always was gentle and kind. Lorena, his former
caregiver, said yesterday, when thinking about Ed: “such a gentle man. A really good man.”
Ed lived a full and wonderful life. He lived with passion and optimism. Yet when it was his time,
he knew. He was at peace. This once radical lawyer was so calm, so contented, and he went so
gentle into that good night.
Ed, you will be missed.
Posted by: Jake Rudnitsky
When we were kids, Dad was the source of endless embarrassment. I realize most children cringe when they see their parents coming, but Dad, or Wideload as just about everyone knew him, was the Bill Belichick of embarrassing.
First off, he didn’t work. Now that I’m a working stiff, this sounds pretty good, but back then other kids’ parents were doctors, engineers or executives. Wide just was. He was there when we left for school, he was there when we got home, and he took a nap in between. Even this schedule didn’t keep him from regularly leaving Lexi waiting at her bus stop for an hour when it was his turn to carpool.
Of course, it was even worse when he tried to keep busy, like when he ran for state senate as a Republican in the bluest of blue states. He never had much a chance against a popular incumbent, but it was a classic quixotic quest for a natural born contrarian. When the country was in an anti-communist fever, Wide was a leftie organizing to save the sycamores on Memorial Drive. When Massachusetts voted for Dukakis, he embraced the conservatives. But I don’t want to get into politics here – a policy I wish I’d abided by more with Dad. My point is this campaign changed our lives, thanks to the family Chevy Caprice station wagon, every square inch of which was covered with rain-stained Ed Rudnitsky lawn signs attached by duct tape. The shame of getting picked up after Hebrew school at the tony Temple Beth Elohim in the Rudnitsky mobile may be a large part of why I’ve never owned a car. Come to think of it, it might also explain why Ben and Jessica have three Teslas.
Despite the occasional awkwardness of having such an unconventional father, there was never any doubt of Wide’s outsized role in our lives. Before Lexi was a published poet, dad was writing verse. During Ben’s initial adventures in investing, you could see the same pazzizi syndrome that animated Wide. And as Ben matured and started to make smart investments (well, I hope), it solved the mystery of how dad could afford to not work in the first place.
For me, I might not have moved to Moscow if it hadn’t been for the Russian novels lying around the house, the occasional Yiddish-speaking relative who visited after the collapse of the Soviet Union and stories of his exotic travels in the navy. So, Mom, it’s not your fault. While I didn’t know it when I started working, Wide even tried his hand at journalism in San Francisco after the Navy, only to quit because everyone in the newsroom was an alcoholic. For some reason that hasn’t deterred me.
My point is, there may be something to the adage that you become your parents, especially after you have kids. If all happy families are alike, then maybe it’s even a good thing. Sorry Gabe! But seriously, as new parents, Zalina and I are constantly discussing how to do right by our kids and prepare them for a world that won’t look much like it does now.
This is about the time that mom told me I should start crying and say I just can’t go on, because I was having such a hard time closing this out. If there’s one thing we pass one thing to our sons, it will be dad’s incredible optimism about human nature. Even with the most difficult folks, he would always find their best quality and use it to define them. The other thing, of course, is love. Mom and dad’s 50 year love story taught me everything I need to know about what a family should be. If Zalina and I can duplicate that, Gabe and his brother will grow up knowing their pop-pop.