Obituary for Yossi Raz (1937-2013) provided by John Kessler.
Yossef O. Raz was born in 1937 in Old Jerusalem, into a family already residing there for three generations. He left his home at the age of 10 and lived through the first tumultuous years of Israel’s establishment, carved by Britain and the fledgling United Nations out of former semi-states of Palestine and “Transjordan”. Jews who have this background, and to a far lesser extent ALL native-born residents of Israel, are known as “Sabra”, after a regionally-found cactus which has thorny tough skin and a soft, sweet interior.
Yossi served his mandatory three year enlistment (age 18-21) in the Israeli Army, operating and maintaining tanks (old WW2 U.S. Sherman M4E8 vehicles). His enlistment exposed him to several skirmishes with rebellious Arab tribesmen. During his service, he was wounded several times and, in 1967, while serving in the Reserves, during the “Six Days War” the tank under his command exploded after entering a minefield. He was the only survivor of that incident.
After the Army, he held many jobs, but settled on working for a local electrical contractor building commercial electric control panels. He also sold insurance during this period.
Determined to find his fortune, he made his way to Florida in 1973 and immediately landed an entry-level position at AMT Shipyard on the Miami River. At that time AMT had several Navy contracts, one of which was packaging diesel generators in portable containers for use as temporary ‘shore power’ for visiting warships, which required special voltages and frequency, not available from the power company. Yossi dived right into the work using his electric panel skills. Shortly he received a big raise and found himself supervisor of shop electricians.
Gaining professional expertise and confidence (and language skills), he decided, after several months, to go out on his own. He bought a service van, and went into business doing free-lance marine electrical work, specializing in marine diesel generators and broad-spectrum electric installation and repairs.
In 1981 he forged a relationship with Galley Maid Company, of Riviera Beach, Fla., a noted manufacturer of marine windlasses, toilet pumps, and other yacht gear. This led to his putting down roots, in 1983, at the present shop location in the large industrial area quarter south of Lester’s Diner on S.R. 84 in Ft. Lauderdale. He started rebuilding marine and automotive generators, starters and alternators in-house, and eventually took on the whole Galley Maid line of equipment, but still spent half his time in dockside service calls. The G-M management passed all service, rebuilding, and South Florida installations to him and furnished all needed parts and expertise. He also took on repair of other brands of marine pumps during this period.
By the mid 1990s his relationship with Galley Maid had soured and Yossi determined that he could not long survive without manufacturing all components of the pumps, with or without G-M’s involvement. Investing all his savings, mortgaging everything in sight, and ‘maxing’ all his credit cards, he laboriously assembled highly specialized machine tools, improved castings, optimized electrical designs, and even wound his own motor field coils. He further researched and established vendor contacts to acquire all needed specialized components.
Ever a perfectionist in his final products, he repeatedly rejected vendors’ and even his own parts when they didn’t perform just the way he wanted. His goal was to build a product that not only outperformed the original, but did so using less power, but still allowing him to make a good profit.
By 2000 Raz Marine was booming, riding the huge surge in U.S. boat ownership, centered for years in Hatteras and Bertram boats, which used Galley-Maid exclusively. Raz workers operated two shifts to remanufacture pumps, build wholly new ones, and install and service all in boats.
By 2010, however, the business had slumped a bit, due to the economic crisis and a shift in the boating community to larger (and smaller) vessels, which did not use the G-M equipment. There were and still are thousands of vessels with these pumps installed, promising decades of stable continuation of the business.
Along with his obvious success in the South Florida marine market place and of his ‘baby’, Raz Marine, Yossi was especially proud of his family and their accomplishments. His son, Adi is a 747 pilot for El Al Airlines after a 20-year career in the Israel Air Force flying AH-64 helicopter gunships. His daughter Sigal completed her Army duty and entered the police force, serving with several secret units. He was further blessed with five grandchildren, all residing in Israel.
In recent years Yossi suffered several health setbacks. In 2011 he sold the business to an old friend and fellow veteran Ft. Lauderdale marine electrician, John Kessler, who had helped him build his manufacturing capability in 1996. He moved back to Israel to get further specialized care and to be with his extended family. A few days before he died, he told his son, “I laugh because it makes me happy. I try to keep away from bad things and enjoy life as much as I can.”
He died in March, 2013 from complications after cancer surgery.
Under the enthusiastic guidance of Mr. Kessler, Raz Marine continues to uphold Yossi’s high technical standards and customer-friendly demeanor.