Lt. Cmdr. Raymond J. Raczek, USN Ret. passed away on August 2, 2021 at his residence in Albuquerque, NM, at the age of 93.
Ray, as he was known by family and friends, was born on June 18, 1928 in Hammond, IN, the son of Joseph and Mary (Dvorscak) Raczek. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago with brothers Joe and Marvin, and sister Frances. A younger brother Richard passed away as an infant. Ray had fond memories of spending summers on the Raczek and Dvorscak family farms in Wisconsin. He was proud of attending Pullman Technical High School for a time, where he became accomplished in the trades and drawing. Throughout his life he was able to fix anything, and when he enlisted in the Navy in 1947, he quickly excelled in electronics and then nuclear power.
Ray married Lorraine A. Raczek (Kohlbeck), daughter of Charles and Lucy (Stueber) Kohlbeck on February 25, 1952 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Stratford, Wisconsin. Smiling among deep snowdrifts on a sunny day, their wedding photos show the beginning of a long and devoted marriage of 69 years, and perhaps why they spent so many years in sunny Albuquerque! They would go on to have three children, Linda, Lois and Peter, and live in Illinois, Idaho, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Hawaii (island of Kauai), New Mexico, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
Ray had a most remarkable career in the United States Navy. He took pride in being a “mustang”—the nickname for a sailor who works his way up through the ranks to gain his commission as an officer. He attended nuclear power school in Idaho Falls, ID. He then served as the Nuclear Reactor Control Division Chief on the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus SSN 571, and made the pioneering first trip under the polar ice cap from the Atlantic side in 1957. He was also recruited by Admiral Rickover to serve as a reactor engineer on the world’s first full-sized civilian nuclear power plant at Shippingport, PA, where he received his commission in 1958.
Ray served as base commander for the Pacific Missile Range, testing the Regulus missile, on the island of Kauai for 3 years, where he made many lifelong friends, both local and from Sandia Labs. He also earned a private pilot’s license, flying a Cessna 150 around the Islands. He was then transferred to his duty of choice at Sandia Base in Albuquerque to work in nuclear safety. Ray retired in Albuquerque in 1969 after 23 years of service in the Navy.
In his retirement years, Ray had business ventures such as Ray’s Rentals and a school fundraising program called Fun Services, but also certified and worked as a commercial boiler inspector. He was an avid fisherman, who told a spell-binding story of being sucked into the Texas Hole on the San Juan, while fishing alone at dusk. He worked on old cars, loved yard sales and a Great Deal, and loved watching the deer and osprey at the family cabin near Heron Lake. He was active in the local SubVets organization and wore his Nautilus baseball cap everywhere he went.
But he was always, first and foremost, an involved and loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, and a good friend. He was funny, sociable, tender-hearted, and generous to a fault. For every child he met he performed his legendary “Duck” with his arms and hands, and quacked at them. His spectacular blue eyes sparkled with mischief.
Ray is survived by his devoted wife of 69 years, Lorraine A. Raczek; daughter, Linda Raczek of Cortez, CO; daughter, Lois Gilliland (Terry) of Albuquerque; son, Peter Raczek (Connie) of Farmington; eight grandchildren; eight great-children; brother, Marvin Raczek (Norine); and many relatives and friends.
A Funeral Mass will be held on September 24, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. at John XXIII Catholic Community. His interment will be at the Santa Fe National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that any memorial gifts be made to either Albuquerque Meals on Wheels, P.O. Box 92614, Albuquerque, NM 87199-2614, or NM Wildlife Center, 19 Wheat St., Espanola, NM 87532.
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