"He was... a legend" -- Thursday,
August 10, 2000
10:54pm - Phil Raffills, a man of faith, courage, tenacity.
Starting in education as a science teacher, Phil impacted countless
lives with his zest for life and the strength of his convictions. DeepScience
salutes Phil Raffills.
10/08/00 - Feisty principal
leaves a rich legacy of respect
By STACEY BODGER and BERNARD
© 2000 New Zealand
Herald File Picture
Phil Raffills' name plate was still at the top of a staff
whiteboard at Avondale College yesterday, without a green marker to indicate
if the former principal was in or out. It was simply a reminder that while
Mr Raffills died, aged 54, on Monday night after a year-long battle with
leukemia, he is still the school's figurehead. The
former principal, who was also an Auckland City councillor, devout Christian
and family man, led the country's largest school for nearly 14 years.
Yesterday, students gathered around a flag at half-mast
to place cards, poems and flowers in tribute to the man they called "Raffs."
"He was just a legend," said seventh-former Anna Egan-Reid. "Raffs always
said the school was his family and that's how he treated us. He would
never pass you without stopping to ask how you were going."
To his wife of 29 years, Noelene, and their three adult
children, Mr Raffills was the perfect father. There were no regrets, no
guilty feelings, when he came out of hospital to spend his last 10 days
at the family home in Hillsborough. "We were a three-stranded chord. Philly,
me and Jesus," Mrs Raffills said.
In 1989, Mr Raffills was a member of a church group that
smuggled Bibles into China. To some he was a brilliant educationist. To
others, he was a moral conservative they derided for his views on sex
education and opposition to the Hero Parade. Bruce Kilmister, the former
Hero Parade chairman, said he disagreed with Mr Raffills' view that homosexuality
was a lifestyle choice but respected his ability as a councillor. But
it was in the field of education and his long association with Avondale
College that Mr Raffills made the biggest mark.
After a fire gutted the school in 1990, he worked day
and night with volunteers to resurrect it, and had students back within
a week. Glenfield College principal Warren Seastrand says that Mr Raffills
was initially lukewarm about bulk-funding of teacher salaries but became
an ardent supporter, which led to an acerbic relationship with the teachers'
Education Minister Trevor Mallard recalled having some
almighty clashes with Mr Raffills. "I think we were probably as far apart
on the political spectrum as you could be. But you always had to admire
his tenacity. He really fought hard for the causes he believed in." Avondale
principal Warren Peat said he hoped to continue Mr Raffills' crusade of
pushing students to extend themselves. "Phil held excellence as being
of the highest value and passed that onto his students."
City council colleagues yesterday praised Mr Raffills'
trademark style of speaking his mind and articulating causes, ranging
from declaring an all-out war on graffiti to minting a millennium medallion,
which proved a huge success.
The public stand that put him in the headlines most recently
was his support for Metrowater, the council water business. Protesters
opposed to the firm several times interrupted his speeches in the council
chamber. Four of them also woke him as they loudly protested outside his
home one Sunday in May. He responded by smashing a side window on their
campaign fire truck.
Friend and former deputy mayor David Hay said Mr Raffills
was a no-nonsense, clear thinker who made up his mind and let everyone
know where he stood on issues. Auckland Mayor Christine Fletcher said
Mr Raffills was an outstanding man who gave 100 per cent and put his heart
into everything he did.
He represented the Avondale-Roskill ward from 1995, sat
on the Avondale Community Board and was chairman of the parks and recreation
committee. He stood for National against Helen Clark in Owairaka in the
1996 general election and against Phil Goff last year in Mt Roskill.
Opposition leader Jenny Shipley said Mr Raffills showed
great leadership in promoting new ideas and had a love of young people
as the future generation of New Zealand. His funeral will be held at Avondale
College tomorrow at 1 pm.