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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Mackinac Bridge

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Lawrence Rubin: Put heart and soul into building, promoting Mackinac Bridge
Lawrence Rubin, who was involved in the funding and building of the Mackinac Bridge and then ran it for more than three decades, was so enamored of the bridge that he built two homes overlooking it. Both afforded him views of the majestic span, even when he was lying flat in bed.

 Lawrence Rubin, the Mackinac Bridge Authority's first executive secretary, stayed on the job for nearly 34 years before retiring

He died Tuesday at Mackinac Straits Hospital in St. Ignace at age 97.
After graduating with a business degree from the University of Michigan (where he played center on the school's football team, as the backup for Gerald Ford's backup) in 1934, he opened an advertising agency. Mr. Rubin helped with a campaign for former Gov. Murray Van Wagoner and later was a state Highway Department radio publicist and director of the Michigan Good Roads Federation.

Mr. Rubin, a native of suburban Boston, later lived in Detroit and Lansing. He was the first employee hired by the Mackinac Bridge Authority, which was formed in 1950, four years before construction began. Among his responsibilities was signing 99,800 bonds, which took him three days to do -- even using a machine that signed 10 at a time.

Mr. Rubin, the bridge authority's first executive secretary, stayed on the job for nearly 34 years before retiring, but his love of the bridge remained strong.

The author of two books about the Mighty Mac, he summed up its significance on the 50th anniversary of the ground-breaking ceremony: "Before the bridge, it was like the UP was part of northern Wisconsin."

Flags on the authority's property were lowered to half-staff Tuesday.

"There wouldn't be a Mackinac Bridge without Larry Rubin," authority chairman William Gnodtke said. "I found him an invaluable resource to consult with when we had difficult decisions on the bridge."

Mr. Rubin also was the director of the Upper Peninsula Travel & Recreation Association, chairman of the local hospital and one of the founders of the area's public library. He was named St. Ignace's Citizen of the Year in 1971.

He also liked reading engineering magazines and downhill skiing, which he learned at 5 and enjoyed doing until age 90.

"He's what we call 50 years later a spin doctor," said his son, David. "The two aspects of his genius was he was a guy who could get things done without ego or promoting himself, and being a promoter. He realized the Mackinac Bridge wasn't just critical infrastructure, but could also be a tourist attraction in its own right."

Mr. Rubin also is survived by his wife of 15 years, Elma. His first wife, Olga, whom he married on New Year's Eve 1960, died in 1990.

Interment will be private, but a public memorial is to be held in St. Ignace within the month.

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