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Retired coach touched many lives as a friend

Tom Raeke (left), with one of his former Framingham State players, Rodd Patten. Tom Raeke (left), with one of his former Framingham State players, Rodd Patten.

Tom Raeke was a people person, whether he was organizing the junior prom at Hudson High School or giving his home telephone number to his football players at Framingham State College in case they needed help.

"It was his way of saying that he wasn't just a coach, he was a friend you could call during the off-season or on weekends," recalled Frank Perfetuo , a team captain at the college in 1989.

Mr. Raeke, who died July 5 of a heart attack while driving to his home in Marlborough, touched many people's lives.

More than 1,000 people attended his wake last Monday at a Marlborough funeral home, including his close friend and St. Columbkille High football teammate in Brighton, Robert McIntyre .

"Tom was a great teammate and a fierce competitor," said McIntyre, who co captained the team along with Mr. Raeke.

"He was a great friend, a great coach, and a terrific father who gave of his time to everybody. If I had to describe Tom in three words it would be family, family, family."

Mr. Raeke, 58, retired last year after 33 years teaching in the Hudson school system. He had been battling cancer for three years, but continued working as a driver education instructor.

"Dad set a great example," said his son, T.J. Raeke , a former Marlborough High and Westfield State College football star who was recently named football coach at Uxbridge High School.

"I always wanted to be a teacher and a coach because I saw the positive way he affected people. He always put everybody else first. I couldn't have had a better role model. I have great memories of his coaching days. It seemed like my sister Michelle and I grew up on practice fields."

The elder Raeke was head coach at Framingham State from 1985-1994 and is the last football coach at the college to post a winning record (6-4 in 1986).

Rodd Patten , Framingham State's all-time leading receiver and team captain, who played from 1990-1993, fondly remembers Mr. Raeke's relationship with his players and his family.

"We looked forward to Friday practice because he would bring T.J. and Michelle with him to run around and play catch with the guys. He loved being around kids and that was evident by the jobs he held," said Patten, in an e-mail from China, where he works for Reebok Corp.

A physical education and health teacher at Hudson High, Mr. Raeke was also ski club adviser and junior class adviser. He was so beloved among his students that he was recognized at the 2006 junior prom as "King of All Proms."

"Tom was really touched by that surprise honor," said Hudson High athletic director Lou Macedo. "He had a unique sense of humor that helped him connect with students."

Mr. Raeke, one of nine children, grew up in Brighton and was a standout center and linebacker on the St. Columbkille's football team. He also played varsity baseball.

A back injury prevented him from playing college sports as he went on to earn his undergraduate degree at Southern Connecticut State and two master's degrees.

He coached football at Newton (now Trinity) Catholic High prior to joining head coach Tom Kelley's staff at Framingham State in 1983. After one season as coach at Marian High of Framingham, he succeeded Kelley as coach at Framingham State.

"Tom was a good person, first and foremost," said Kelley, now the college's athletic director.

A funeral Mass was said last Tuesday at Immaculate Conception Church in Marlborough. Burial was in Evergreen Cemetery in Marlborough.

Patten, from far away, echoed the feelings of those who attended.

"He was like a second father to me," wrote Patten. "He taught me more than I could have ever imagined and he will always hold a special place in my heart."

In addition to his son, who resides in Holden, Mr. Raeke leaves his wife, Catherine (Gillis) of Marlborough; three daughters, Jamie Boda and Kristen of Westborough and Michelle of Marlborough; six brothers, Edward and Dan of Plymouth, Kevin of Sutton, Charlie and Father Joseph of Cotuit, and Jack of Easton; two sisters, Cathy MacNeil of Billerica and Dottie Shea of Canton; and six grandchildren.