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Local Democratic leader remembered as educator, family man

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Tim Raftery and his wife Sonia at his last family reunion in Clearwater Beach, Florida. (Submitted Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

If you knew Tim Raftery at all, there were three things you knew about him.

Tim Raftery, right, with his wife Sonia and their grandson Andrew at the annual Buddy Walk representing the Drew Crew. (Submitted Photo)

The first was his dedication to the advancement of the Democratic Party in New Mexico. The second was that, if you saw him walking toward you with one of his trademark smiles, you may as well clear your day-planner for a couple of hours, you were about to learn something. The third was that he was devoted to his family.

Tim passed away at his home Tuesday morning at the far-too-young age of 68.

Amanda Gattis, a friend of Tim and his wife, Sonia, remembered his dedication to the party.

“He called every month to remind everyone about the meetings,” Gattis said, “and, every event we had, he was there working it. I don’t think 10 people could replace all he did.”

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Tim and Sonia met in 1981.

“He was a science teacher,” Sonia said, “and I was a kindergarten teacher in Santa Rosa. We were a case of opposites attracting. We constantly challenged each other, but, after a month of dating, we both knew this was it.

“We got married in Hawaii at the Iao Needle on Maui in 1985 ,and we returned for our 25th anniversary in 2010,” Sonia said. “I wore the same dress. He wanted to do that so badly. He was a man of tradition and very much a romantic. He would often bring me flowers.”

Raftery grew up in the U.S. Army, traveling with his parents.

“He was an Army brat,” Sonia said. “His father was Col. Paul H. Raftery, and he moved to many parts of the world. Tim once told me he felt at home at Epcot Center in Florida because many of the countries he had lived in were featured there.”

Raftery came from a large family.

“He had a sister, Sheila Raftery in Florida,” Sonia said, “a brother, Patrick Raftery and a sister-in-law, Marjory, in Florida; a sister, Nora Wipple and brother-in-law, Bob, in Kentucky; a sister, Norma Alhskog, and a brother, Michael Raftery, in Albuquerque; and he had a brother, Paul Raftery, who lived in Washington, D.C., who died in an accident in the early ‘80s.”

As a small child, Raftery contracted polio. His physician was Dr. Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine. Tim recovered fully and never looked back.

Learning was Raftery’s greatest passion.

“He spoke four languages and understood Russian but couldn’t speak it,” Sonia said. “He was always reading. He lived to learn. He would read a mystery novel sometimes but, when he was reading to learn, it was like he was in a different world.”

He went from Joliet Catholic Academy in Illinois to the University of Illinois.

“He graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in finance,” Sonia said. “He got his bachelor’s. After that, he took a tour to Brazil. He lived in Brazil and traveled in South America for two-and-a-half years. Then he came to New Mexico and got his master’s, and got an Ed.D. at the University of New Mexico.

Raftery made good use of his doctorate.

“He was superintendent in Lake Arthur,” Sonia said, “and he was superintendent in Mosquero, up in Harding County.”

He briefly left K12 education, but that didn’t last.

“He left public schools and went to ENMU-Roswell as a registrar,” she said. “He wanted to get back into the classroom. He went to Artesia and taught there for 14 years. He had many endorsements, so he taught many different classes. He was a DECA teacher who took his students to nationals where they won many times over the years. He taught history. He was a real history buff.”

Raftery had a special bond with his grandson, Andrew, who was born with Down Syndrome.

“He loved his grandchildren,” Sonia said. “His life totally changed when that little boy was born. Andrew is 7 now, so he had a good seven years with his grandfather.”

Along with his wife, Tim leaves behind a daughter, Eliza Romero, and her husband, Mike Romero, along with their children Adezra and Andrew. He also had a son, Hiram Morales, and his daughter, Amayah Morales.

Sonia put his devotion to family concisely.

“He was wonderful,” Sonia said. “He took care of us. He was my rock.”

Raftery’s friends were people who could challenge him, make him think and spar with him. One of his closest friends, Tim Cusack remembered him.

“He was articulate, witty, had a good sense of humor,” Cusack said. “You could push him. We’d laugh and we’d both back off of our political positions. He had a good analytical mind. We’d joke about literature and quotes.”

Cusack remembered a time when Tim got him to do something he never expected to do.

“He talked me into representing a Democrat in a recount vote (in 2010), which was fun because he’d lost by two votes and when we’d got it corrected, he’d lost by one.”

Cusack remembered Raftery as a good and true friend.

“He was very dependable,” Cusack said. “He wasn’t intrusive. If you asked for advice, he’d give it to you. You may not like it, but he gave it to you.”

There will be a viewing and Rosary Friday at 7 p.m. at Anderson-Bethany Funeral Home, 2609 S. Main St.. On Saturday, there will be a viewing and Rosary at 11:20 a.m. followed by a Mass at noon, which will be held at Assumption Church, 2808 N. Kentucky Ave. Services will be led by his friend Fr. Joseph Pacquing.