Jerry Zucker was a faithful family man who spent every minute that slipped by on his 19-year-old Casio watch trying to make the world a better place, family and spiritual leaders said Sunday.
The 58-year-old self-made billionaire — a businessman, an inventor and a philanthropist — died Saturday after succumbing to cancer. A day later, at his funeral, his family and friends remembered a brilliant and humble man who stuck closely to the teachings of his own father, the late Leon Zucker, who said, "A man should not be measured by his years, only by his deeds."
Through tears and laughter, his children and friends questioned, and then answered, how the community can cope with the loss of someone who did so much for so many people: give.
"In honor and memory of my father, I challenge each of you to do something to make the world a better place," eldest son Jonathan Zucker said behind dark sunglasses.
Even in his final days, he worried more about helping others than his own dwindling health, Synagogue Emanu-El Rabbi Robert Judd said.
"He shared with me his worries that he hadn't done enough, that he didn't do enough to leave the world in a better state than he found it," Judd said.
Zucker was founder, chairman and chief executive officer of The InterTech Group, a global conglomerate that ranked as one of the country's largest privately held businesses.
Forbes Magazine recently put Zucker's wealth at $1.2 billion, making him the 962nd wealthiest person in the world.
Friends said much has been made of Zucker's wealth, but he only considered it something that helped him achieve his goal of helping as many people as possible.
There was no doubt among Sunday's speakers that Zucker accomplished his goals.
Rabbi and family friend Chezi Zionce said Zucker never refused a request for money to help someone. "He always exceeded my requests without pomposity or fanfare," he said.
Daughter Andrea Muzin said her father quietly helped finance international missions that provided medical supplies and treatment to people around the world.
Her favorite memory is from a weekend morning years ago, watching a televised
charity auction with her father. Zucker told his children to pick out the items they liked. Muzin said she and her brothers happily picked out bicycles, video games and televisions that she thought would be coming home with them, but her father said they had an opportunity to do a "double mitzvah" — or a double good deed — by helping the charity, then taking the items they won to an orphanage.
Jacob Zucker said his brother thought that evil came from good people doing nothing.
"Jerry never quit that good fight, and now that good fight is ours," his brother said.
He called his brother an "American original" with the genius of Thomas Jefferson and the business acumen of Warren Buffett.
Jacob was 6 and Jerry was 3 when their family arrived in the U.S. from Israel. Even at 3, Jerry projected a maturity beyond his years. Jacob quoted the phrase, "You can't lead until you know where you're going."
"Jerry always knew where he was going," he said.
Rochelle Marcus called her brother the smartest man in the world.
"If Jerry dreamed it, he could design it. If he could design it, he could produce it." his sister said.
He dreamed, designed and produced many things, from a push-button telephone at the age of 17 to a pacemaker and other surgical tools, his sister said.
"It might sound like I'm exaggerating, but in Jerry's case, no exaggeration is necessary," she said. "He was a legend in his own time."
Zionce said Zucker was determined to beat his own illness. He quarterbacked his own treatment plan and exceeded doctors' expectations until about a month ago, when it started to overwhelm him. His condition took another bad turn last week.
Muzin said she recorded many of her father's stories in a notebook. She and her brothers promised to pass along their father's teachings and values to their own children.
"There is no doubt he left the world a better place," Judd said of Zucker. "It's now our duty to carry on the work Jerry began."