William J. Raffetto III Having lived in the Marina district of San Francisco for 61 years, William Raffetto had recently moved to the South Bay when he died unexpectedly in his sleep Sunday January 20, 2013. He was known as "Will" to his family, "Billy" to his school chums, "Biff" to his theater students and stagehands, and "Bill" to his business associates. He was born in San Francisco on January 30, 1951 to William J Raffetto Jr. and Doris Canvin Raffetto. He attended St Vincent de Paul School, then St Ignatius High School, Class of 1969, the alma mater of his father and his uncle Richard. In high school he discovered the theater and the technical aspects of lighting, sound and mechanics that would ultimately become his life's work.
With 3 high school friends he co-founded Black Boxes, Inc., a sound company that grew to become BBI Engineering. An accomplished and much sought-after audio mixer, William mixed thousands of live events for entertainment, sports and corporate clients including early Apple product introductions, Chevron shareholder meetings, Starcade and Wheel of Fortune tapings, along with a wide range of entertainers at the Masonic Auditorium, and numerous A's & Giants games in between. Covering golf at Pebble Beach for Good Morning America and Women's Field Hockey at the '84 Olympic Games were very public highlights. His work on the early "spacebridge" events previewed the now-common multi-site video conferences that was quite a technical achievement 15 years ago.
Preceded in death by his father, William is survived by his mother Doris, his older sister Janet Borg (Mike) and younger sister Celia Maglione (Joe) with nieces Michelle Baptista (Kevin), Leslie Jensen (James) and Erica Maglione; nephews Matthew Sauerland (Cindy) and Jay Maglione along with 4 great-nephews and a great-niece.
His hobbies were reading about and tinkering with anything technical- video, audio, computer, electronic -, "haunting" electronics and surplus equipment stores, enjoying all kinds of music especially Blue Grass, and helping out on multiple projects for his sisters and their families.
A Memorial Mass will be held on Friday February 8th at 10:30am St Ignatius Church with a reception following. Parking is available at the Koret Center garage on Parker Ave between Turk and McAllister Sts. The burial will be private. Donations may be made in memory of William J. Raffetto III to the SI Fine Arts/Theatre Arts Scholarship Fund c/o 2001 37th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94116.
Pictured above are those who attended John Vallelunga's wedding, from clockwise, starting with the far left are Ernest Piantanida '24 (Vince's father), Bill Bosque '69, Tom Campion '69 John Martinin '69, Vince Piantanida '69, Dan Bosque '70, Kevin Bosque '72, Frank Dunnigan '70, with Bill Raffetto in the center.
The following is the eulogy delivered by Bill's sister, Celia Raffetto Maglione.
I’d like to begin today by thanking all of you for coming on behalf of our mother, Doris, my sister, Janet and myself. We appreciate you taking time to come here today to be with us to remember Bill and celebrate his life.
Let me first say, I believe that my brother Bill is in a much better place now.
He’s in heaven with God and all its wonderful glory. He’s reunited with his father whom he hasn’t seen since he was 8 years old. He’s there in heaven with his grandmothers and grandfathers, other family members and friends and countless other famous and not-so-famous people. And, yes, I’m pretty sure that he now knows the answers to all of life’s nagging mysteries – like will the Sharks ever win a Stanley Cup?
As I began to collect my thoughts for this eulogy, many of Bill’s attributes came to mind. There are two that I want to focus on here: one is Bill’s natural ability to teach and mentor others and secondly, his determination to always try to do things right. Those of you who knew Bill well, knew he was not forceful or imposing with these attributes. But in his own quiet, gentle – and yes, sometimes, stubborn way he held true to those callings.
Since Bill’s death, the family has talked to many relatives and friends who when expressing their condolences would share a lovely story or personal remembrance about Bill. Sometimes it was surprising to hear these stories since they included aspects of Bill’s personality that he didn’t always show when he was with the family. Looking back it strikes me now that no matter how well we think we know our close family… we don’t know everything about them. From talking to Bill’s friends and colleagues, I have been discovering that there are many, many people that were touched & influenced by Bill. People we never knew he interacted with. He never really spoke about his activities. He was usually listening to what others had to say instead and taking it all in. Those of us close to him, we obviously didn’t always appreciate what Bill meant to others… and how profoundly he seemed to touch many lives.
As I look out this morning, I see some of Bill’s grade school friends from St Vincent de Paul—home to the “Marina Mafia” as they liked to call themselves. I see many St Ignatius Wildcats—those of you who were with Bill in 1969 as the last all-boys class to graduate from the old SI building on Stanyon Street. I see friends that worked with Bill on various theatrical productions and those who worked with him throughout his audio career.
In these past few weeks, it has been very eye opening, and comforting, to become aware of how many people there are that felt Bill made a difference in their lives. Here’s just a few of the comments we received:
His childhood classmate Ed writes: “Billy taught me how to play chess. He was the first person I ever knew who built his own transistor radio. Some days, Peter, Billy and I would hang out in the basement downstairs where we would use the phone there // to crank call people”.
In addition to fooling around with his buddies, as Bill grew up, he just loved making things work. When he discovered live theater in high school, he was particularly fascinated with what went on backstage-- the lighting and sound and sets all coming together to make an enjoyable experience for the audience.
He loved sharing what he knew about the “backstage” so others, too, could love putting performances together as much as he did. For him, it was much more like sharing than teaching. I don’t think he thought of himself as a real teacher…some kind lofty authority figure…He was just a guy with some knowledge and know-how. He was glad to show you all about it, if you wanted to know.
One of his theater tech students tells it :
“…I was one of the stage crew geeks // that worked with Bill in the mid 70's at St Ignatius. … Bill didn't care if we were girls and wanted to be techies – he taught us the same and gave us just as much responsibility as the boys. I look back on that as the beginning of the rest of my life. Because of what I learned with him I actually went into broadcasting and I was a sound engineer for a while before going on to work in TV news. I realize that your brother with the smile that never dimmed no matter what catastrophe was happening was always there for us. I have had many friends on Facebook comment that he was always there with a listening ear and shoulder to cry on no matter what the problem was. He had a wisdom about him that helped me through many trials. Please tell your mother that she raised an incredible man who meant so much to so many that you may never have met. Bill enriched all of our lives and I have a hole in my heart where he resided.”
When Bill wasn’t busy working or ---okay, maybe watching some TV----he would be tinkering or reading about tinkering. My mother recalls Will being very young and eager to take things apart just to see what was inside. There was always the dismantling and parts everywhere and then the re-assembly. Sometimes things worked again, sometimes not. But he was fascinated with the details of it, the whys and wherefores of all things mechanical. I guess that’s why in his later years, he would have lots of technical articles, schematics, and parts catalogs on lots of different topics. If he wasn’t answering his phone, we knew he was probably wandering for hours in surplus and parts stores envisioning all the possibilities with the things he saw.
For me, his greatness lay not in the fact that he could do things, assemble, fix, create mechanical things, but in the way he did it. And I was lucky enough many times to observe him in action as he worked on various projects and activities.
You’ll have to remember-- my brother and I go way back…for as long as I can recall our early childhood together … I was sort of a side kick. I was his guinea pig for science experiments, the pusher of his go-cart, the holder of supplies and tools and the bad guy who got tied up at the OK Corral. I loved it, he was my older brother and I looked up to him. To be with him was just fine with me.
But then we grew up ---I went away to school, got married, had kids so there were a lot of years where we just went our own ways, too busy to see each other and make those check-in calls.
Fast forward to last year. Many of you remember the apartment building on Union Street where our Grandmother lived and Bill, Janet and I grew up. The building was sold last year by the family, but as we were getting the building ready, our Raffetto cousins, my sister, Janet, Bill and I decided to “update” my Grandmother’s kitchen to help it sell.
It was during the 3-month remodel that Bill and I got a chance to work together every day. Some of my favorite memories are from those recent months working side by side. As we worked I could not help but marvel at the care and determination and precision he brought to the jobs he worked on. Now I admit I like to be organized and tidy in my activities, but Bill’s way was special. There was magnificence to how he maintained his working regime. His well-worn tool belt had a place for everything, placed exactly where he would reach to find it. As I would help him, handing him tools while he was on a ladder, he would remind me of the importance of putting things back in their exact place so they would be there for the next time. He didn’t say it in a nagging way, but in a gentle teaching way, almost as if he were reminding himself of the necessity.
Late at night as we were working, I would admire his steadfast determination to get the task accomplished and to accomplish it with such exactness - each and every task ---carefully carried out with care and precision. No matter what task was at hand-- stripping and twisting bare wires together to make an outlet connection – it was done in such a way that you would never worry that the connection would never spark or cause a problem. It was way beyond “building to code”.
There was a grace to how he used tools, not the grace and fluidity of a dancer, but the grace that comes with the confidence of how things should be done –how to install an engine, how hang a fixture, how to wire an electrical panel.
For many people ---- and maybe I should say most people----Bill’s way of working would be too slow and laborious; I admit it was the grounds for more than a couple of fights between us on how to do things. But no matter what, there was always an integrity to his work—the kind that assured me as I watched him, that the job he was doing was being done correctly, and one with vital care to detail that it would allow the job to be safe and strong to last a lifetime. I will never forget those hours we spent on that kitchen. It gave me a chance to see the thoughtful teacher I somewhat remembered from my youth and the one that many of you had a chance to know.
Well, Bill, I guess this is it. We won’t be seeing each other for a while. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be in touch... of course we will…just like we have been over the years…As we often would think about each other, even when we were busy and didn’t get time to call…or got stuck working sometime and couldn’t see each other at birthday dinner. You were always with me. You are my brother.
And you’re still here … in my mind ... in my heart. Hey, it’s just like you’ve gone to a place far away, too far to even visit, too far -- in fact -- to even get any clear cell phone service. And we all know there’s lots of places like that…but who knows, maybe one day…maybe in the not-too distant future ---Verizon might start even reaching all the way to heaven. And when it does…please---please --- for once, answer your phone. It’s me ------ I’m calling to say,“I love you”.
By Michael Galletti '66
Founding of Black Boxes, Inc.
Billy, SI Class of 1969 (SI was also the alma mater of his father and his uncle Richard) founded the company with three of his high school friends: Phil Bailey, Class of ’76; Mark Roos, Class of ’75; and Vince Piantanida, Class of ’69. Black Boxes evolved from a sound company into BBI Engineering in 1984. The entity began and continues to offer a broad spectrum of state of the art installed systems, audio services and engineering. Their portfolio of accomplishments includes projects for Museums, Theaters & Art Centers, and prominent Corporate entities.
Billy’s Accomplishments - His work speaks for itself
His initial high school theatrical interests were the technical disciplines of the craft, including lighting, sound and mechanics. But his gifted ear would soon find him focusing on his much lauded abilities as a front of the house mixer. And if the venues had acoustical shortcomings, Billy would augment the systems with BBI’s equipment to meet the demands of his impressive clients and ensure that their audiences heard every word and every note. A distinctive quality of Bill’s sophisticated work was his ability to balance the volume throughout the house, large or small, mindful of the performer’s needs, but equally sensitive to the audience’s experience.
No tapping of the microphone, no test one-two-three, no feedback; presidents, performers and CEOs stepped to the stage confident they were in good hands (and ears). Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Mikhail Gorbachev, Steve Jobs, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sergio Franchi, Vic Damone, Diahnn Carroll, Jerry Vale, Frankie Laine and Nelson Riddle are just a small sampling of the caliber of orators, vocal and musical talent whose artistry was acoustically nurtured by Billy’s gifted engineering. Billy had an exemplary flair for the delicate balance of focusing on the soloist while blending smoothly and delicately the accompanying orchestras. Just as seamlessly, as the technology evolved, he adapted to the inclusion of other mixed media in corporate marketing presentations.
Raffetto’s talents were not limited to the stage, as he also exercised his mixing chops for television: Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants games, Wheel of Fortune tapings, the 1984 Olympics, and golf at Pebble Beach for Good Morning America. He was instrumental in coordinating the pioneering satellite video conferencing so common today, but a marvel at its inception several decades ago. The multi Continent Spacebridge conferences include 1984’s International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, 1985’s Five Continent Peace Initiative with Argentina, Greece, India, Mexico, Sweden, Tanzania and the United States and 1988’s Ronald Reagan & Mikhail Gorbachev for their role of changing superpower relationships. (The videos are still available at http://traubman.igc.org/bwaward.htm).
There may be many comparable talents in Billy’s industry, but in a business most populated by egos and divas on both sides of the microphone or camera, I have never met a more compassionate, self-effacing individual. He was a purist in his work and in his humanity. He always gave unselfishly of his time, talent and heart, whenever and wherever, with neither reservation nor exclusion; be it star or student, family or friend, you would be most fortunate to have known William Raffetto.