My maternal grandfather was a quiet man already a year into what turned out to be a three-decade retirement at the time I was born. During his golden years he loved spending time fishing the streams of northwestern Connecticut, or working in the machine shop he had in his basement.

Kennebunk High football Coach Joe Rafferty works with players during a 2018 practice. He announced his retirement last week after 44 years. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer, File

A father of five and a grandfather of 17, Grandpa was understandably a man of few words. But he had a sly sense of humor, and when he did say something, it was memorable. I vividly remember him quietly observing of someone whose talent for self-congratulation had grown wearisome, “You know, I’d like to buy that fella for what I think he’s worth, and then sell him for what he thinks he’s worth.”

Which brings me, in a very roundabout way, to Joe Rafferty.

Coach Raff, as he’s been known in the towns of Regional School Unit 21 for the past 44 years, announced his retirement as the head football coach at Kennebunk High School last week. When he was hired in 1979, he wasn’t exactly taking over a thriving program. The downtrodden Rams had been southern Maine’s perennial whipping boys; in the nine seasons prior to Rafferty’s hiring, four different head coaches had come and gone. Joe’s teams went on to four state title games, winning the Gold Ball, emblematic of the Maine state championship, in 1991. All told his squads won 217 games, an impressive number of triumphs at any level in any sport.

But measuring Joe Rafferty’s value purely on his coaching victories is like evaluating Abraham Lincoln solely on his skills as a railsplitter.

This space isn’t nearly large enough to list all the things Joe Rafferty has been doing behind the scenes for the past 4½ decades to better the lives of his students, his players, their families, his Kennebunk neighbors and now, as a second-term state senator, his constituents. Teaching physical education (which he did for 40 years, retiring in 2018) and coaching football are just the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of what he has contributed has been done, quite deliberately, under the radar. Publicity is to Joe as Kryptonite is to Superman.

It’s hard to estimate how many people Joe has influenced positively over the years, but consider this: I am currently viewed as something of an elder statesman at Kennebunk High School, given that I’ve been teaching English there for slightly over two decades. But my tenure at the school still isn’t even half as long as Joe has been the football coach there.

The Kennebunk Rams played their home football games last fall at Waterhouse Field in Biddeford because the facility at their high school was being refurbished. This coming autumn, however, the team will be playing on a beautiful new artificial turf field with improved lighting, and the games will be viewed by people sitting on brand-new bleachers. To nearly everyone in Kennebunk, Kennebunkport or Arundel, naming the gorgeous new facility “Joe Rafferty Stadium” would appear to be a no-brainer. But the opposition to that plan is probably going to be strident, because it’ll likely come from the state senator and coach emeritus himself. Unlike the self-important fellow who inspired my grandfather’s comment many years ago, Joe Rafferty is an experienced and determined limelight-shunner who’d prefer to continue doing what he’s been doing all along, which is everything he can to make the lives of those around him better, and doing it with a minimum of fanfare.

I’ll guarantee my grandfather would have recognized Joe Rafferty’s value, just as I do. In fact, if I could, I would buy Coach Raff for what he thinks he’s worth, and then sell him for what I know he’s worth.

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