Midwest real estate icon Harley E. Rouda Sr., who founded HER Realtors and built it into one of Ohio’s largest real estate brokerages, died Thursday at his home in central Ohio. He was 83.

After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Rouda started HER Realtors in 1956 in the basement of his Upper Arlington home. By 1964, it was the biggest brokerage in the region, according to a statement issued by the company.

Today, HER Realtors is affiliated with the Real Living franchise network, which is led by Rouda’s son, Harley E. Rouda Jr. HER Real Living has 700 agents who work in 45 offices in central Ohio.

Rouda was also a figure on the national real estate scene. In 1991, he served as chairman of the National Association of Realtors. He also served terms as president of both the Ohio Association of Realtors and the Columbus Board of Realtors. 

Despite his success, Rouda maintained a friendly, down-home bearing. According to his obituary, he was well known for his homemade jam. He was also active in civic life in his hometown of Upper Arlington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Marlese Rouda; children Greer (Susan) Rouda, Leslie (Brian) Rouda Smith, Scott I. Rouda, and Harley E. (Kaira) Rouda Jr; grandchildren, Bradley Rouda, Jessi Rouda, Kristin Smith, Austin Smith, Harley E. "Trace" Rouda III, Avery Rouda, Shea Rouda, and Dylan Rouda; brother, Jan Lewis (Janet) Rouda; and many extended family members and friends.

A celebration of Rouda’s life will take from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Bridgewater Conference Center, 10561 Sawmill Parkway, Powell, Ohio.

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