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Online real estate leader Rucklos dies

Hopes for a last-minute rally that would have raised money for a Medford man's liver transplant faded quietly Monday.

Tom Rucklos, founder of the pioneering real estate Web site , died at about 5:30 a.m. of liver failure, his wife said. He was 49.

He was fighting to the last minute, said Cynthia Rucklos, 46. His heart was so strong. Bless his heart, he was just a champion.

Efforts by members of the local real estate community to raise &

36;250,000 ' the estimated cost of a transplant ' had netted about &

36;5,000 at last check, Cynthia Rucklos said.

Those funds will help offset at least &

36;100,000 in medical expenses, she said.

— Local real estate workers launched a fund drive that included a trust fund at PremierWest Bank and an advertising challenge.

There was a flurry of donations, some in the &

36;500 range, said Randy Unger of Sierra West Real Estate. There was some activity, which was great, and then it tapered off.

Tom Rucklos was diagnosed with chronic liver disease two years ago, just after economic hardship prompted him to stop paying his private insurance premiums. Although he qualified for the Oregon Health Plan, recent cuts in the state budget diminished his benefits.

Cynthia Rucklos and Unger said they plan to organize a support group for people who need liver transplants and their families. Unger said he's interested in starting a foundation to help uninsured people pay for organ transplants.

This is a life-or-death situation, he said. This is not acceptable.

Rucklos was recognized as a local leader in on-line real estate advertising. The Web site he and Cynthia Rucklos designed has recorded more than 8 million hits, she said.

A memorial service for Tom Rucklos is planned for 1:30 p.m. Friday at St. Peter Lutheran Church, 1020 E. Main St., Medford.

Full obituary, Page 2B