Former Wellington, Palm Beach Central coach Jeffrey Raab dies
Thursday, July 22, 2010
by Joseph Kairalla
Photo by Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post
This 2007 photo shows Jeffrey Raab and his wife, Bobbi. Click here to leave condolences on Mr. Raab's guest book.
Tom Cherry and Jeffrey Raab had been friends and colleagues for more than a decade when Cherry got Raab the head coaching position for the Palm Beach Central junior varsity football team in 2004. It was during the first few days of practice at the newly opened school when Cherry realized something was wrong.
"There were some days he would come to practice and he wouldn't have any idea who I was," Cherry said. "And this was a guy I worked with on a daily basis for many years."
The reason Mr. Raab couldn't remember Cherry was because he was just beginning a fight with a rare form of Alzheimer's disease. On Monday, Mr. Raab lost his six-year battle with the disease and died at 55.
A viewing will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Palms West Funeral Home in Royal Palm Beach, with a funeral service beginning at 1 p.m.
While it was at Palm Beach Central where Mr. Cherry noticed his friend fading away, it was at Wellington High where Mr. Raab left his legacy. Mr. Raab was a teacher and football coach there for 16 years until his retirement.
When Cherry took over as the head football coach at Wellington in 1994, he named Mr. Raab his defensive coordinator. Together they teamed to lead the Wolverines to two district titles and made it as far as the regional playoffs five times before Cherry resigned after the 2002 season.
Cherry, currently the golf and weight lifting coach at Palm Beach Central, is quick to credit Mr. Raab for much of the Wolverines' success in the mid-1990s. That success included beating a powerhouse Pahokee team led by Anquan Boldin three times in four years.
"Defense was our strength, and our calling card was discipline, which was Jeff's specialty," Cherry said. "At one point, he even went as far as to make up T-shirts with the word 'Discipline' on it. He did things the right way."
Another reason Mr. Raab succeeded was because the players he coached and the students he taught took his lessons to heart. Mike Pinkney, who starred for the Wolverines from 1993-1997 as a fullback and linebacker and later played for the University of Miami, was one of those players.
"I remember being a young player and making a mistake and coach Raab pulled me aside and said, 'Look I know and believe you're going to be a great player, but to make it happen, you have to believe in yourself,' " Pinkney said. "He didn't have to do that, but he always looked out for us, especially when we were young players.
"It's those moments that make him a coach I'll always remember."
Pinkney also remembers Mr. Raab as a motivator who had his players ready for every game and practice.
"I'll never forget going down to Key West for a big playoff game and on the whole way down there, coach Raab was saying, 'We're going to Key West to get the Conch Republic back. This is our territory now,' ' Pinkney said. "He got us so fired up, man. He was the ultimate character."
Mr. Raab had early onset Alzheimer's, which is those stricken before 65. Raab was diagnosed when he was 49.
"Coach Raab was a fighter and his death is extremely sad, but he definitely left his mark," Cherry said. "He was extremely loyal and well-respected, and if you think about all the work he did with kids and the amount of lives he touched, it's amazing,"
Mr. Raab is survived by his wife, Bobbi, and four children.
"He was the best of the best and he's going to be missed," Pinkney said.