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William “Bill” Joseph Raphael

MADISON — A Mass of Christian Burial for William “Bill” Joseph Raphael, 87, who died Friday, Aug, 23, 2013 surrounded by his family at his residence, will be 11 a.m. Tuesday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison.

Burial will follow at Parkway Memorial Cemetery under the direction of Wright Ferguson Funeral Home.

Visitation will be from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. today, followed by a prayer service, at the church and 10 a.m. until service time at the church.

Mr. Raphael was born June 19, 1926, in Natchez, the youngest son of the late Charles and Rose Raphael, proud Lebanese immigrants.

After graduating from Cathedral School, where he excelled in all sports and was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he served his country in the United States Navy during World War II. After an honorable discharge, he enrolled at Southwestern Louisiana Institute in Lafayette, La., where he earned his undergraduate degree. While at Southwestern, he participated in track, football, basketball and boxing, and was the intramural heavyweight boxing champion. In school, he met the love of his life, Claire Louise Nassar, on a blind date. They were married for almost 60 years. He remained devoted to her for the rest of his life.

Following graduation, he began his career at St. Joseph High School, one that would last 41 years. During this time he earned his masters degree in mathematics from Mississippi College and furthered his education by earning a specialist degree in mathematics. “Coach,” as he was affectionately known by his students, was highly respected and admired by his students, his peers and many others throughout the state.

His students were not only taught from a math book, they learned many of life’s lessons as well. His time at St. Joseph produced numerous awards, honors, and achievements. Among some of them are the Star Teacher awards, induction into the Mississippi Coaches Hall of Fame, two- time coach in the Mississippi High School All-Star game, and the monumental victory over the highly ranked Murrah Mustangs in the 1972 Capital Bowl. Nationally, he received awards from the Gerald Ford Foundation and the National High School Athletic Coaches Association. After leaving St. Joseph, he returned to coaching at Millsaps College and to teaching as an adjunct professor of math at Belhaven University.

Some of his proudest moments include the dedication of the St. Joseph football field in his name and the book “Raphael” chronicling his coaching career at St. Joseph High School.

A devout Catholic, he was a faithful daily communicant of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison. He enjoyed watching sports, his beloved westerns and was an avid reader. Coach loved his Monday night poker game, playing golf with his buddies and meeting them for lunch at Fat Tuesdays.

Dad will be remembered most as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.

Mr. Raphael was preceded in death by his wife, Claire Louise Raphael; one sister, Helen Colligan of Hackberry, La., and one brother, Morris Raphael of New Iberia, La.

Survivors include one sister, Edna Belle of Mayes Landing, N.J.; four children, William J. Raphael Jr. and wife, Susan, of Ridgeland, Kathryn R. Blakeney and husband, Bob, of Brandon, Matthew C. Raphael and wife, Alice, of Picayune and Mark E. Raphael of Madison; three grandchildren, Lesley R. Read and husband, Paul, of Petal, Matthew C. Raphael, Jr. of Hattiesburg, Lauren A. Raphael of Madison and a number of nieces and nephews.

The family wishes to thank the staff and caregivers at Hospice Ministries for the care and compassion they provided to Dad and his family, especially Billy and Sandra.

Memorials may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN, 39105, Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave., Mobile, AL, 36604-1299 or to the Carmelite Monastery, 2155 Terry Rd., Jackson, MS, 39204.