Here’s To The Raafs

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Dear Editor:

In your May, 25, 2017 edition, I enjoyed reading the fine article written by Michelle Raaf, celebrating the 65 years of marriage of her grandparents, Richard and MaryLou Raaf. Or as I always addressed them, Mr. & Mrs Raaf. I first came in contact with Mr. Raaf, when I briefly played football for St. John's Home in the early 70's. When I went for the team physical, I was diagnosed with a hernia, which at the time I thought was very cool. After the surgery I realized that having a hernia was not so cool. The St. John's Home football team used to practice weeknights on the beach and used to draw quite the crowd on the boardwalk. I guess the theory was after playing in soft sand all week, we'd run like deer for the weekend games. As I was on the injured reserve list (IR) before the season even began, I never experienced the “running like a deer” portion of the game. Mr. Raaf in those days, with his crew cut and no-nonsense approach to coaching, was the ideal prototypical football coach. I thought he was the toughest guy in Rockaway, the way he kept dumping me and my teammates on our rear ends in drills.

In my high school years I had the opportunity to play basketball for Mr. Raaf, when he was coaching at St. Camillus. Richie Jr. and all of my buddies were on that team and I enjoyed playing that season immensely. Playing basketball for Mr. Raaf was a little more enjoyable, than playing football for him. Maybe because he knocked me around a little less, or because I made it through the season without a hernia. (I'm still trying to figure that one out). After one close loss to the best team in the league, the Raafs opened their home and threw the team a nice party. In those days there were no participation trophies and losses were not celebrated. Mr. Raaf told us at the party that we played as hard as we could and that he was proud of us. Coming from Mr. Raaf, that meant the world.

As the years went by I moved from Rockaway but returned often. For a few years I returned as a basketball official at the St. Francis de Sales Summer Basketball Classic. One night I was refereeing a girls’ league game, when I noticed that Mr. Raaf was coaching one of the teams. The way I noticed Mr. Raaf, was he was yelling and screaming at me, for every call I made against his team. After the first quarter I went over and said “Mr. Raaf, I'm Charlie Moran. If you keep screaming at me, I'm going to have to T you up.” Mr. Raaf responded, “I'm sorry Charlie, I didn't recognize you, I'll behave the rest of the game.”

The Raafs influenced at least two generations of athletes in the Rockaway Peninsula. One group of not so young men that are now nearing 60 years of age and a group of young ladies that are considerably younger. I would like to congratulate Rich and MaryLou Raaf on their 65 years of marriage.

Charles Moran

 

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