Richard Blackman took a small plumbing supply shop started by his father in New York City in the early 1920s and built it into a multimillion-dollar business with about 500 employees and now headquartered in Bayport, said his nephew Steve Klein of Glen Cove.

Blackman, 79, died Sept. 19, of natural causes at a hospice in Boca Raton, Fla., where he was living in retirement, Klein said.

"He liked outdoor activities, like skiing, sailing and especially walking on the beach," Klein said.

But the main focus in life for Blackman, a graduate of the University of Miami, in Florida, was business, Klein said.

In a statement, Robert Mannheimer, president of Blackman Plumbing and Supply Inc., described Blackman as a visionary who "inspired all of us."

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Blackman joined his father's company in the early 1950s, working initially at the business's Flushing, Queens, branch. In 1975, he succeeded his father, Sam Blackman, as chief executive and was instrumental in the diversification of the company from basic plumbing and water works supplies to air conditioning, heating and bath and kitchen design services, according to a company statement.

He also was a key driver in the company's expansion; it now has 22 branches and showrooms throughout the metropolitan New York area, as well as a newly constructed distribution center and corporate headquarters in Bayport, Klein said.

Other survivors include his longtime companion, Sandra Mula of Boca Raton; and a sister, Harriet Starkey of Rockville Centre.

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Private services were held in Boca Raton on Sept. 21. The family asked that, in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations be made to the Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Blackman's name.