Honorary Sun Valley Mayor Maurice Ratner, a San Fernando Valley business leader who helped establish the first synagogue in the area, died Monday in Westwood. He was 85.
He was diagnosed with cancer five weeks ago, said his daughter Jacqueline Ratner-Stauber.
Ratner moved to the Valley, with his parents and two siblings, in 1914. Although there were only a handful of Jews living in the area at the time, by the late 1930s, the number had grown to about 100 other Jewish families and so had the notion of establishing a synagogue in the area.
"It was time," Ratner said in a 1988 Times interview. "We needed a \o7 shul \f7 for ourselves and to encourage other Jews to move to the Valley. In those days, Jews hesitated to go places where there wasn't much Jewish life. We looked forward to the day when there would be a synagogue here," he said.
In 1938, about 15 families established the Valley Jewish Community Center which would become Adat Ari El, a 950-family Conservative congregation in North Hollywood.
Born Jan. 26, 1905, in Corsicana, Tex., Ratner graduated from Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles. At 17, he began selling real estate in Sun Valley and became one of the area's early developers. He earned a degree in pharmacy from USC, where he helped to start the Rho Pi Phi fraternity and was president of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.
He operated Ratner's Drugs in Sun Valley from 1929 to 1945. Ratner, who also once sold insurance, was a partner during the 1950s in the Sun Valley-based Sloane Manufacturing Co., an early plastic pipe-fitting operation. He continued to sell real estate at his Sun Valley Realty Co. until shortly before his death.
Ratner helped organize several Jewish and community organizations including a B'nai B'rith chapter in North Hollywood, Valley Beth Israel in Sun Valley, Shaarey Zedek Congregation in North Hollywood, a Conservative synagogue. He also helped start Valley Cities Jewish Community Center in Van Nuys, the Emek Hebrew Academy in North Hollywood, the Teichman Mikvah Society in North Hollywood and several Chabad chapters in the Valley, the family said.
He was on the board of directors of Serra Memorial Hospital, Alisa Ann Ruch California Burn Foundation and Sun Valley National Bank, in addition to belonging to the Burbank Masonic Lodge and the Al Malaikah Shrine in Los Angeles, according to his family. Ratner also helped start the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce and served as its president in 1928, and was a founding president of the Sun Valley Rotary Club in 1938. He was named the first, and thus far only, honorary mayor of Sun Valley in 1983.
He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Bernice Ratner; daughters Jacqueline Ratner-Stauber of Van Nuys, Elizabeth Gottlieb of Encino and Judith Douthit of Manhattan Beach; a sister, Rose Horowitz of Manhattan Beach; seven grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
A funeral is scheduled for today at 9 a.m. at Mt. Sinai Mortuary, 5950 Forest Lawn Drive in Los Angeles, with burial to follow. Groman-Eden Mortuary in Mission Hills is handling the arrangements. Donations can be made in Ratner's name to the Anne Ratner chapter of AMIT or Chabad.