Jim D. Raby, PE, died peacefully on Friday, June 16, 2017 at approximately 6:30 a.m. at home. Born on August 10, 1934 in the town of Jeff, Alabama, Raby was 82 years old. He graduated from Monrovia High School in 1952 and briefly attended Andrew Jackson Business School in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1954, he joined the U.S. Navy and served his country honorably as a Seabee and as a Communications Technician.
Raby married the love of his life, Mary Ellen (Mitchell), on March 13, 1959. Jim and Ellen recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary. Jim and Ellen celebrated the birth of their son, David, in December 1959. David has spent many years at Jim’s side and is diligently carrying on the mission his Dad set before him.
Following his discharge from the service, Raby began work in Huntsville for the Army Ballistics Missile Agency (ABMA) as an electronic technician. There, he had the distinction of working with the former German Rocket Team, including Dr. Werner Von Braun, during the infancy of the U.S. Space Program. In 1960, ABMA was transformed into the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Raby joined the new agency as a Charter Member. He worked on almost every phase of the Pegasus, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs.
Raby’s contributions included the development of specifications and standards for electronic manufacturing. He established schools across the country for soldering and related technologies, and performed lead activities in the fabrication of electronics for the Saturn and Apollo programs. Raby moved to various contractor facilities (as a NASA employee) throughout the U.S. to provide NASA guidance on manufacturing methods and techniques as well as providing Quality Assurance functions. He had the last word on flight readiness of electronic and electrical installations, and in troubleshooting these systems when problems arose. The Moon landing during the summer of 1969 was the climax of this great era in Raby’s life.
Raby left NASA in 1975 to work for the U.S. Navy at China Lake, California as Head of Soldering Technology Branch. While at China Lake, he developed the Soldering Standardization Program which standardized requirements DoD-wide and the Solder Training and Certification Program. He also started the Electronic Manufacturing and Production Facility (EMPF).
In 1984, Raby left the Navy to start Soldering Technology International, Inc. (more recently known as STI Electronics or STI). STI remained a family business until his recent retirement. Raby’s life focus was to support the electronics manufacturing industry and to do all he could to make sure that the country he so loved, was defended. STI is and will always be an advocate for the electronics industry and support its customers through the products and services the company offers.
Of all of Raby’s achievements, he is most proud of his family – wife Ellen, son David, daughter-in-law Sheila, and beloved granddaughter Ashley, and he is and forever more will be grateful for his relationship with Jesus.
Although Jim’s passing will leave a huge void in each of our lives, his legacy will live on through his son, David and all those that he poured so much love and attention into. His love for family, friends, colleagues and country will remain in our hearts and memories for years to come.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the following:
Jim D. Raby/STI Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made payable to Calhoun Foundation and mailed to: Calhoun Foundation, Calhoun Community College; P. O. Box 2216, Decatur, AL 35609-2216. Please include a cover letter with the check or donation stating the check is for the Jim D. Raby/STI Scholarship Fund.
The Gideon’s International; P.O. Box 2091, Madison, AL 35758 in memory of Jim D. Raby.
St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital; P. O. Box 50, Memphis, TN 38101.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research; P. O. Box 5014, Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014. Donations also can be made online in memory of Jim at the following link: https://www.michaeljfox.org/get-involved/donation2.php.