In Memoriam: Jim D. Raby

Back in January 2016, I had the privilege of writing an article on “Solderability and Tinning: Does the Industry Really Know the Difference?”

Jim D. Raby

Mr. Jim D. Raby
Courtesy of the Raby Family

Even more of a privilege was the opportunity to collaborate with an industry giant on the concepts of solderability and tinning to help educate engineers and quality personnel in the aerospace, military, and industrial fields on how to properly perform these processes on components which have been manufactured.

That industry giant was Mr. Jim D. Raby, PE. Jim died peacefully June 16, 2017, at his home in Madison, AL. Jim was 82 years old. Jim was born on Aug. 10, 1934, in the town of Jeff, AL. He graduated from Monrovia High School in 1952 and briefly attended Andrew Jackson Business School in Nashville, TN. In 1954, Jim joined the U.S. Navy and served his country honorably as a Seabee and as a Communications Technician. Jim married the love of his life, Mary Ellen (Mitchell), 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, Jim began work in Huntsville, AL, for the Army Ballistics Missile Agency (ABMA) as an electronics technician. There he had the distinction of working with the former German Rocket Team, including Dr. Wernher von Braun, during the infancy of the U.S. Space Program. One of my fondest recollections would be having lunch with Jim at his favorite Mexican spot, Rosie’s in Huntsville, where he spoke highly of Dr. von Braun, who frequently contacted Jim to seek his assistance and counsel on soldering/interconnection issues. I recall Jim saying that Dr. von Braun would call him “resilient,” and to my surprise, I would ask Jim how he felt getting such a great compliment from one of the greatest scientists that ever lived? Jim, always in rare form and looking to put a smile on your face, would reply by saying he immediately went home and looked up the word resilient in the dictionary.

In 1960, ABMA was transformed into the Marshall Space Flight Center, as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which Jim joined as a Charter Member. He worked on almost every phase of the Pegasus, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Skylab programs. Jim left NASA in 1975 to work for the U.S. Navy at China Lake, CA, as Head of Soldering Technology Branch. While at China Lake, Jim developed the Soldering Standardization Program, which standardized interconnection requirements DoD-wide, and the Solder Training and Certification Program. He also started the Electronic Manufacturing and Production Facility (EMPF). In 1984, Jim left the Navy to start Soldering Technology International Inc. (more recently known as STI Electronics). STI Electronics Inc. became—and is today—a full-service organization for training, consulting, laboratory analysis, microelectronics assembly, prototyping, and small- to medium-volume PCB assembly as well as electronic and industrial product distribution.

STI was chosen in 1998, 1999, 2008, and 2009 as one of the fastest growing companies in the country by Inc. Magazine and was selected by the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce as the 2000 Small Business of the Year in the Business Services Category. STI was also a finalist in the Alabama Manufacturer of the Year in 2008 as awarded by Alabama Technology Network and Business Council of Alabama.

STI remained a family business until Jim’s recent retirement. Jim’s life focus was to support the electronics manufacturing industry and to do all he could to make sure the country he so loved was defended.

Jim had developed an enjoyment for fishing as a child and loved to go when he could find time and a partner for casting the line. He frequently arranged fishing outings for students in STI solderability classes and for customers visiting the Alabama plant. He enjoyed showing them the beauty and fishing of local lakes and the Tennessee River. Many times, the “big one got away.” Other pleasures included good Alabama barbecue, lunch at Rosie’s Mexican Cantina, a filet mignon steak and glass of cabernet sauvignon wine from Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, taking cruises with his wife, Auburn Football, and visiting with friends and business associates.

Of all Jim’s achievements, he was most proud of his family—wife Ellen, son David, daughter-in-law Sheila, beloved granddaughter, Ashley, and sister Glenda Beard (James), and he was and forevermore 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.

Acknowledgments
I would like to acknowledge Mr. Leon Hamiter of Components Technology Institute Inc. in Huntsville, AL, for his input on this memoriam and for setting up those memorable lunches at Rosie’s Cantina.

This remembrance was published as a press release on prlog.org and as an article in Evaluation Engineering.

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