JOHN RAFFA MOVES ON
By Karen Raffa
CORRALES, NEW MEXICO -- John B. Raffa, one of the
most respected automotive photojournalists in the
history of drag racing, passed away at 10:00 AM Mountain
Time January 20, 2004, after a five month battle with
pancreatic and liver cancer. He had celebrated his
69th birthday on January 5th.
Raffa's career in journalism began at Super Stock & Drag Illustrated in
the mid-1960s, but before the end of the decade he'd moved to Petersen
Publishing in Los Angeles, where he served in various positions,
ultimately becoming the Publisher of Car Craft Magazine. It was under
Raffa's leadership that the All-Star Drag Racing team program
flourished, growing into the most prestigious program of its kind. But,
as important as the All-Star Team was to become, Raffa's real legacy was
his unmatched ability as both a talent spotter and teacher. Under his
tutelage noted writer/photographer/editors such as Drag Racing Hall of
Fame member, the late Steve Collison, former CC editors Terry Cook and
Ro McGonegal and numerous others were given an opportunity to let their
enthusiasm for the sport reach hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide.
Raffa returned to SS&DI in 1971 as the magazine's Publisher where,
during a 13-month stint at the helm, he not only changed the
publications moribund ways, but also trained Drag Racing Hall of Famer
Jim Kelly in the art of magazine editing.
Through the balance of the '70s and well into the '80s Raffa worked his
magic for both Hanes Publishing and Phil Engeldrum's California-based
operations before taking a management position with NHRA's house organ,
National Dragster. Working closely with editor Phil Burgess and Director
of Publications Neil Britt, Raffa not only taught the younger writers
how to become more professional journalists, he also made the staff's
already proficient contributors even better. Still a topnotch talent
spotter, Raffa was instrumental in the hiring of newcomers like John
Brasseaux, who would eventually move on to become the editor of Drag
Racing Magazine. In his most recent unofficial editorial position Raffa
provided invaluable advice and guidance during the formative months of
Drag Racing Action Magazine.
Unbeknownst to many is that in recent years Raffa has been a tireless
champion of the Drag Racing Association of Women (DRAW), not only
helping to design and market their impressive line of jewelry and
charms, but in leading numerous fundraising efforts.
Named as the recipient of the prestigious Founders Award as part of the
2004 International Drag Racing Hall of Fame program, Raffa was to have
been officially inducted on March 17, 2004, but through the generosity
of the Hall, he was presented with the award last week. He held it
lovingly in his hands, looked at the small gathering of friends standing
by, and as only he could, offered a two word response, "Far out!"
Raffa, who passed quietly at his home in New Mexico, is survived by his
beloved wife, Karen, and sister, Joy.
There are no plans for a public funeral, with the family requesting that
in lieu of flowers members of the motorsports community continue to
support DRAW's efforts on behalf of the families of injured competitors.
Contributions can be forwarded to DRAW, 4 Hance Drive, Charleston,