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Irving J. Rubin, retired auto executive

Sept. 21, 1926 – Oct. 21, 2015

Irving J. Rubin, a retired auto executive, died Wednesday in Sisters Hospital after a long illness. He was 89.

Born in Hamilton, Ont., his parents brought him as an infant to the United States, where they settled in Detroit. He received American citizenship at age 18 while serving as an Army corporal during World War II.

His wartime duties were to sail between the U.S. and Europe on ships carrying war brides over to America. He would inform the women about American customs and way of life.

After the war, he graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit and married Dianne Becker in 1950.

In 1958, Mr. Rubin became executive assistant to Michigan Highway Commissioner John C. Mackie.

He joined Ford Motor Co. in 1970 as advanced projects manager in the company’s product development group and later became governmental affairs planning manager on the governmental relations staff.

When seat belts were first developed for use in automobiles, he traveled extensively throughout the U.S. on behalf of Ford, promoting their use. He was influential in legislation that would tie mandatory seat belt laws to funding of highways.

One of the first Jewish executives at Ford, he knew and was on friendly terms with Henry Ford II, according to his family.

In 1991, Mr. Rubin was appointed by Michigan Gov. John Engler to the six-member State Transportation Commission.

When housing integration first became an issue after the Detroit riots, he formed and headed an organization (the Bagley Community Council) to persuade white homeowners not to flee integrating neighborhoods but rather to welcome new residents. He was instrumental in passage of a local ordinance preventing realtors from practices that spread fear to persuade white residents to sell their homes.

He served on various boards and commissions with memberships of both American and Canadian authorities, dealing with American-Canadian border issues and was an advocate of more open borders to stimulate trade.

In the early 1990s, Mr. Rubin and his wife began to split their time between Detroit and Youngstown. In 1998, they retired to Youngstown, and then to Buffalo a few years later.

Survivors include a son, Aaron; and three daughters, Miriam, Judith and Deborah Kate.

A funeral was held Thursday in the chapel at Forest Lawn.

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