Spiros G. Raftis, entrepreneur, founder and chairman of Red Valve Company, died Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 at the age of 86. Spiros founded the Pittsburgh-based Red Valve Company in 1953 as a one-plant operation originally built from five sheets of plywood. At the time of his passing, Red Valve Company had grown substantially from these modest roots to include 2 plants, 36 patents and over 220 employees; as well as two other globally-recognized valve operations, Tideflex Technologies and RKL Controls.
Mr. Raftis, a son of Greek immigrants, did not even know a man like himself could become college-educated. However, he saw nothing but opportunity. Spiros graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1945 with a degree in metallurgical engineering and went on to become a manufacturer's salesman for several years until he founded Red Valve Company. Since its inception, Red Valve Company and its two other divisions have risen to become the global standard of valves in a multitude of industries. This growth was due largely to Spiros' careful guidance and mentoring. His business acumen did not end there. He would also go on to develop the Carnegie Office Park, containing several large office complexes and over 25 businesses, just outside of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Raftis' experience and mentoring extended far beyond the doors of Red Valve Company and onto the next generation of entrepreneurs. Ann Dugan, the founder of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence at the University of Pittsburgh, would often call on Spiros to lecture and give advice to new business leaders. "He was an entrepreneur's entrepreneur," Dugan said. According to Dugan, Spiros was instrumental in focusing student ambitions into viable businesses.
In addition to Mr. Ratis' academic mentoring, he was also the author of two best-selling books, "Five Sheets of Plywood: A Practical Guide for Starting Your Own Business" and "How to Succeed in Starting Your Own Business: A No-Fail Plan for Achieving Financial Freedom How to Finish Rich," Both books detailed the guiding principals of his own rise from a one room operation at the top of a dirt road to a highly respected world-wide corporation represented in over 75 countries.
Mr. Raftis was as generous as he was ambitious. Chris Raftis, his son and president of Red Valve Company, reflected, "Dad was charitable. The first checks my father would write on the first day of each month would go to support monasteries and orphanages in Greece, the Agape Fund (a fund he initiated through the Orthodox Church to help families in financial distress), Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, and others."
Spiros was "a working man's president," his other son George Raftis remarked. George added, "My father's customers and employees found him to be charismatic, honest and empathetic. He treated his employees with the same sincerity that he did with his customers."
Spiros Raftis is survived by his wife Anastasia, sons Chris and George, daughter Cynthia Raftis and 6 grandchildren. Mr. Raftis' legacy will live on in the hearts of his family, friends and employees, while his vision and innovations will be carried into the 21st century.