Extension loses beloved food and nutrition specialist Carolyn Raab


Carolyn Raab

Carolyn Raab, an Oregon State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor with the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, died Thursday, Dec. 6 at her home. She was 64.

A graduate of UC Berkeley, UC Davis and State University, she worked for the Society for Nutrition Education before beginning her career as an Extension food and nutrition specialist for the Wyoming Agricultural Extension Service. She came to OSU in 1975, and retired in 2006. However she continued to work part-time for OSU Extension after her retirement.

“Carolyn was the “go-to” faculty member at OSU for any consumer question on food safety and food preservation,” said Sally Bowman, program leader for Extension Family and Community Health. “She had the fastest response time of any Extension faculty member who participates in Ask An Expert.”

“Carolyn took her work and life seriously and I enjoyed it when I could get a laugh and smile from her,” said Janice Gregg, an Extension faculty member. “She was constantly contributing to others and giving her skills and abilities in abundance.  Carolyn was a treasure of knowledge when asked a question, but just didn’t depend on her own memory but looked up the answer.  Only she knew where to find the answer in the files or stacks that graced her office.”

Raab was part of the team that hired Lynn Steele, an Extension faculty member, 20 years ago. Raab often helped Steele provide timely and culturally relevant food safety information for Extension programs targeting Latino families in the Metro area.

“Carolyn was a dedicated specialist believing in the true mission of Extension,” Steele said. “She had a special place in her heart for our immigrant audiences, was a down-to-earth colleague and friend to us all.”

Janice Smiley, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Coordinator, said Raab was practically a historian when it came to Extension. She could remember details no one else could. She was also a helpful and attentive editor.

“It was Carolyn who was sought out to take the last look at documents that went on to become Oregon or Pacific Northwest Extension publications.  She would offer suggestions in such a gracious way and she helped us become better writers,” Smiley said. “She was a scholar in nutrition and food safety.  She trained us well, and kept us current and up-to-date.  She answered questions that no one else could answer.  If she couldn’t find the information right away, she would say, “Give me a minute. I’ll get right back to you.” And she did, every single time.”

Nellie Oehler, a Family Community Health faculty member, worked with Raab from the time she arrived in Oregon. Together they developed the Master Food Preserver Program, which is still active today. They also worked together on a series of television programs called “Food for Later” which aired for years on PBS.

Oehler said Raab was dedicated to food safety and was an inspiration to other Extension faculty.

“I don’t know of an Extension Specialist more dedicated to OSU Extension than Carolyn,” Oehler said. “Her job was her life right up until the end.  She will be missed and I am so glad I had the opportunity to work with her and glean so much from her all these years.

Jeanne Brandt, with OSU Extension Family and Community Health, said Raab had a keen understanding of who her audience was, and was able to tailor presentations and information to a variety of different groups.

“Carolyn set the standard for what an Extension Specialist should be — the mission of OSU Extension is to bring current, research-based information to the people and Carolyn was vigilant about keeping up on emerging and important issues and providing field faculty with the background to adequately address them,” Brandt said. “She was a prolific and effective writer, preparing numerous fact sheets, news tips and news releases for use by local and state media and faculty.”

Brandt said Raab was a huge fan of peanut butter, and suggested that those who knew her should donate peanut butter to the OSU Food Bank in her memory.

Raab was a registered dietitian, and received an Award of Merit from the Oregon Dietetic Association in 2007. She also received an OSU Extended Education Award in 2005.

In addition to her work in Extension, Raab was a pianist and singer, and enjoyed creative writing.

An organ concert in her memory will be scheduled in January. Donations to continue her work may be made to the OSU Foundation – Dean’s Excellence Fund in CPHHS and indicate in the notes section that they are in memory of Carolyn Raab.

~ Theresa Hogue

5 Responses to “Extension loses beloved food and nutrition specialist Carolyn Raab”

  1. Pamela Tom says:

    Thank you for writing such a lovely tribute to Carolyn whom I met after she retired. Please note I think she went to Virginia Tech. Your article mentions “State University,” rather than Virginia Tech where she earned her PhD. I appreciated her friendship.

    She will be missed.



  2. Steve Dodrill says:

    Carolyn was one of the most incredible faculty members I ever worked with on the OSU campus. You and your wisdom will be missed, Carolyn.

  3. Tom Gentle says:

    Carolyn and I became friends the first time we met. That was in 1980 when we collaborated on a nutrition project. I was with Extension Communication and the Extension Home Economics Program was one of my responsibilities. Carolyn was the epitome of Garrison Keillor’s shy person so we got to know each other better as time went by. The obit mentions “the files or stacks that graced her office.” I wouldn’t describe those stacks as graceful, but when I saw her office I knew she was a kindred spirit. Neither one of us liked to throw anything away! And it’s true: she knew where to find anything in those piles that covered almost every surface in the room. We also bonded over our love of coffee and reveled in our mutual Peets snobbery–though I never understood how she could prefer decaf. (As an aside, Carolyn grew up in Berkeley a few blocks from an early Peets Coffee house on Vine near Shattuck.)

    She was an excellent writer, but sometimes overly modest and self-effacing. The scientist in her was leery of generalizations and she didn’t like to call attention to herself. I take it as a mark of our friendship that she let me open a news story with the line “Mayonnaise as a major cause of food poisoning is a myth that will not die, according to Carolyn Raab….” That story ended up in newspapers throughout the state. Another time, she learned from a county agent about a botulism incident that killed one and seriously sickened another. At her initiative, we fashioned a 3-part news story that also garnered news coverage around the state. The tricky part involved not revealing anything about the victims and Carolyn adroitly helped me include crucial info about botulism without compromising the source of the story. Those articles, too, landed in newspapers throughout the state. That was an important way of getting nutrition information to the public back then.

    I’ve been retired more than 12 years so I can tell this now. We often sat in her office or at a cafe on Monroe for, uh, shall we say an hour or two shooting the breeze and drinking coffee. That was when I learned she had a great sense of humor and interests outside her scientific world such as classical music and singing. After she bought a house, she shared her house repair frustrations with me. I had to tell her she was the typical daughter of a father who should have taught her how to fix the plumbing.

    We stayed in touch after I retired and every year exchanged Christmas cards with brief letters ruminating over the previous 12 months. Now, instead of staying in touch by mail, I wish I had taken the time to drive to Corvallis and go on a coffee break with her–Peet’s, of course, one regular and one decaf. Christmas is a sadder holiday this year. Yesterday I saw her name on my holiday card mailing list and realized I wouldn’t be sending her one this year. Worst of all, I won’t be receiving one from her.

  4. Mary Stewart says:

    I mark Carolyn as one of the greats in food and nutrition at OSU, alongside Margie Woodburn and Mary Kelsey. Carolyn and I started working in Extension around the same time, and I found her not only an infallible source of information (my nutrition go-to) but also a friend I could giggle with over some food-related story. Her life on earth was way too short, but she certainly accomplished an amazing amount while she was here! Thank you, Carolyn.

  5. Marjorie Braker says:

    I worked with Carolyn for over 20 years. She was the Foods and Nutrition Specialist while I worked as an Extension Home Economics/Family Community Health educator at the county level. Carolyn expertly answered every question I posed to her, even if she had to put in hours of research to find the correct answer.

    Carolyn was tireless in her support for quality food safety and nutrition educational programs in Oregon. Faculty members and volunteers learned so much from her over the years. She was an excellent writer, editor and curriculum developer. She would not put her name on a project unless it was first rate.

    Without Carolyn, the food preservation programs in Oregon would have been less exacting and reliable for all the home food preservers who look to OSU for guidance and education.

    I will miss her expertise, dry wit and funny laugh. OSU has lost a very special educator.