Reuven Rahamim was living the classic rags-to-riches story. He grew up without running water in Israel, immigrated to the U.S. at age 14 and worked hard to build his innovative sign business into a success with annual revenues of almost $10 million.
That story grabbed the attention of Todd Nelson, a regular contributor to the Star Tribune, who interviewed Rahamim at his Minneapolis-area Accent Signage System on Thursday.
Four hours later, Rahamim's story turned from inspirational to tragic, when the 61-year-old small business owner was shot dead by a man police identified as Andrew Engeldinger, a former employee who had been fired a few hours earlier. Engeldinger also shot four other people to death before killing himself, police said.
"The premature loss of a man with so much energy and so many ideas, who wanted to do things for people and be productive is terribly sad," Nelson told The Huffington Post. "He had given so much and was excited that he had so much more to give."
Nelson said Rahamim had a "warm, energetic presence. He seemed tireless in pushing to innovate, to develop better and products and services for customers -- thinking not just about now, but what his customers would need five years from now."
Nelson was also struck by Rahamim's devotion as a business owner to sustainability. "That's something that lasted throughout his business career, and not just in recent years when it has become a buzzword," Nelson said. "His ambition was to build the best possible company but also to make the world a better place for his children, grandchildren and future generations."
As Nelson followed Rahamim through his building, he said the business owner's interactions with some of his 25 employees "appeared comfortable." Near the end of the tour, Nelson said Rahamim "seemed to get reflective, talking about growing up in Israel on a farm, reflecting on his family and his concerns about the environment, and what he's trying to do to avoid spoiling nature. He was sharing his thoughts and concerns about what kind of world we're leaving behind."
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 13,827 workplace homicide victims were reported from 1992 to 2010. The bureau also reported that workplace shootings account for about 10 percent of all work-related deaths each year in the U.S.
Besides killing Rahamim and himself, Engeldinger killed UPS driver Keith Basinski and three others.
"Other members of the Accent family tragically lost their lives as well, and we mourn their loss," Rahamim's son-in-law Chad Blumenfield said in a statement.
"That vision and ambition -- to be lost senselessly to this -- just seems like such a waste," Nelson said. "There would have been a lot more he could have contributed to the world, and that opportunity is gone."