Industry veteran Bob Raff — former president of Parts Warehouse Inc. and All Pro/Bumper to Bumper and a key player in the creation of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance — died Nov. 26. He was 82.
Raff also made his mark as a stalwart supporter of AWDA and, later, the University of the Aftermarket Foundation. He served as chairman of both organizations.
“He cast a long shadow within the distribution industry,” Larry Northup, senior director of community engagement for the Auto Care Association, said. “Over the years, he earned every major award offered by AWDA.”
He was the first recipient of the Martin Fromm Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 and the AWDA Leader of the Year in 1993. He also earned the Art Fisher Award and Pursuit of Excellence Award, along with MEMA’s Triangle Award, the association’s highest honor.
“His contribution to literally hundreds of businesses is impossible to articulate,” David O’Reilly, executive chairman of O’Reilly Automotive, said. “He was always thinking of the other person, and never asked for anything in return. He was a long-time industry friend, colleague and advisor. His departure leaves an incredible void in our industry.”
All that, and he was just a genuinely nice guy, too, O’Reilly said.
Raff left his job as a high school teacher and football coach to become sales manager of independent jobbers for Parts Warehouse Inc. (PWI) around 1964, E. Fletcher Lord. Jr., chairman of the Crow-Burlingame Co., recalled.
“When I started to travel the market with him, everyone who saw him called him coach,” Lord said. “He won a state championship just before he left to join the parts industry.”
Raff became president of the company in 1989 when his boss, Copeland Hughes, retired. Replacement Parts Inc. (RPI) was formed as a holding company in the late 1980s, brining Crow-Burlingame, PWI and several smaller corporations together.
When the president of All Pro/Bumper to Bumper, PWI’s national marketing group, resigned, Raff took over until a successor could be found.
“Bob hired an industry leader and approached another larger group, Auto Value, and helped merge the two groups together to form the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, the largest group of its kind in the country,” Lord said.
Raff was always extremely supportive of the vendor community, John Washbish, Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance CEO, said. “He constantly coached up his team to help the suppliers get bigger, better and more professional.”
Eli Futerman, co-president and CEO of Hahn Automotive Warehouse, praised Raff’s work to make sure the industry stayed engaged and relevant. Futerman said he particularly admired Raff’s focus on education and training for all levels of the industry.
Raff served for many years on the University of the Aftermarket Foundation board, donating and raising large amounts of money for scholarships in the aftermarket.
“He was a role model to me and most in our industry,” Futerman said. “He was a giant who was always approachable.”
Survivors include children Kim, Courtney, and Robert, and four grandchildren. Raff was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Margie.