Gerald (Jerry) Raab, a long-term resident of Billings, passed away Nov. 9, 2018, at the age of 89, in his home, after a short battle with cancer. He was preceded in death by the love of his life, Marijean Beall Raab, who died in March 2000; as well as his parents, Floyd and Amelia (Geise) Raab; and his siblings, Joan and George. He is survived by his niece and nephews, Estelle Gage and Mark Helman of Oregon, and Andy Helman of Washington; as well as Marijean’s nieces: Kitty Thorne and Joan Beckham of Montana and Susan Beall of Washington.
Jerry earned a BS degree in chemistry from Montana State University and an MS from Oregon State. He pursued and/or was awarded with multiple opportunities for additional advanced education, including selection, along with 99 other outstanding high school science and mathematics teachers from the USA and Canada, for a Shell Merit Fellowship at Stanford University.
Jerry began his teaching career in Whitehall prior to serving in the Army from 1953 to 1955. He had fond memories of his experiences as a traveling science teacher for the National Science Foundation, which provided him with opportunities to promote science education across the country. In Billings, he taught at a middle school prior to his 27-year career at West High (1960-1987), where he taught honors chemistry and became chairman of the chemistry department.
Over the years Jerry received countless calls, notes and letters from present and former students thanking him for his impact on their lives, both professionally and personally. One former student’s recommendation letter, regarding Jerry’s nomination for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching, highlighted Jerry’s outstanding qualities as a teacher. “Mr. Raab was the quintessential teacher. He was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject. His lectures were clear, concise and interesting. In short, he made learning fun. He was demanding but fair and, as a result, was greatly respected by the students. Furthermore, he was a good friend to the students and took an interest in their lives beyond the classroom Not only did I receive an excellent background in science, but more importantly, he taught me how to think, which is a far more valuable gift. He is a wonderful role model who leaves an indelible stamp on his students.” (Uncle Jerry kept several scrapbooks of these notes, letters and tributes. Only recently were we able to convince him to share them with us, since, even though he often loved to talk/brag about his former students and their accomplishments, he was humble about his part in their success.)
Jerry’s passions included his wife of 43 years, his students, friends and neighbors, hunting, fishing and golfing. Jerry got a kick out of telling people how he had been retired now 30 years, more years than he had taught! Jerry created a very close-knit neighborhood. After his wife passed away 18 years ago, he began hosting a weekly neighborhood happy hour at his home, supplying wine and snacks, to catch up with the latest news on the street. He sent the ladies home with roses on Mother’s Day, boxes of chocolates on Valentine’s Day and free produce regularly that he had picked up on sale to help feed the growing kids. He guided several generations of kids in the neighborhood, teaching them the importance of education, working hard to earn their own money and even giving them silver dollars for their birthdays! Jerry decorated each mailbox on the street at Christmas time with fresh cut evergreen boughs, pine cones and red velvet ribbons. He was one-of-a kind, irreplaceable and will be in our hearts forever.
A celebration of Jerry’s well-lived life will be held in the spring of 2019. His ashes will be interred next to those of his beloved wife, Marijean, in the Fish Creek Cemetery, outside of Whitehall.