Local Obituaries

‘Queen of wit’ B.J. Rakow, writer, mother of slain Beach officer

Barbara “B.J.” Rakow held many jobs over the years, from writer to management consultant. Her son, Miami Beach police officer Scott Rakow, was killed on duty in 1988. A youth center in Miami Beach was quickly named for her son.
Barbara “B.J.” Rakow held many jobs over the years, from writer to management consultant. Her son, Miami Beach police officer Scott Rakow, was killed on duty in 1988. A youth center in Miami Beach was quickly named for her son. Rakow family

When B.J. Rakow joined the writer’s website Hubpages.com six years ago — at over 80 — she introduced herself as someone “who had only eight careers.”

Psychologist, marketing vice president, training director, entrepreneur, management consultant, executive coach, writer, motivational speaker. And, perhaps the most obvious of all once you got to know her repertoire: stand-up humorist.

For the website, she wrote mock interviews with famous dead people like Charlie Chaplin.

“I asked her why, and she said, ‘Dead people can’t sue me,’ ” her daughter Sherry Kane Superfine said.

She revealed some of the nation’s dumb and crazy laws — her term, but you really couldn’t argue when confronted with some of the wacky laws she’d unearth from the books.

For instance, in Miami Beach, her home for four decades before moving to Aventura after her husband Allen’s death in 1993, she revealed in one of her blog features that it’s unlawful to take a pig with you to the beach. Her retort: “Wait a minute! You can’t talk about my girlfriend like that.”

Erma Bombeck, we hardly knew ye.

Rakow, who died at 87 on Feb. 20, could also write serious text, as she did for her 2008 book, Much of What You Know About Job Search Just Ain’t So. She drew upon her expertise.

Rakow, born in Chicago on Nov. 14, 1928, earned her doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Illinois and master’s in adult education and training management from Florida International University. She moved to Miami Beach in 1950.

B.J. Rakow’s son, Scott Rakow, was a Miami Beach officer killed in the line of duty in 1988. The city named a youth center in his honor that year.

Among her jobs, she worked as a vice president for marketing for Citibank of Florida and director of the Dislocated Workers Center for the Florida Department of Labor. For Right Management Consultants she helped design organizational programs for Fortune 500 clients. More recently, she served as an executive coach, working with ship captains of the Royal Caribbean International cruise line.

She was brilliant, too, her son Joseph said. In the late 1980s, mother and son did some post-graduate work together. As a memory exercise, students sat in a circle and, clockwise, said their first names. An instructor called on them to recite all the names they could remember and repeat them in clockwise order. “Mom said, ‘I’ll say it counterclockwise.’ And she did.”

But her sense of humor, well, you could lose yourself in it for hours. In that sense, Rakow earned the “Queen of Wit” title from Hubpages editors.

Am I the only one who thinks birthdays are special? I admit I did fib about my age for years since I was fortunate enough to look younger than my years. Ah, those were the days.

She was ahead of her time. Her real name was Barbara Joyce but she changed it to B.J. in the corporate world. It was a man’s world. If she would say B.J. she’d get calls back. She didn’t want to be called Barbara. She’d correct you.

Sherry Kane Superfine on her mother, B.J. Rakow.

When I was in my 20s, eons ago, I thought old age was anyone over 35. Now that I am older than soil, old age is simply anyone older than me.

Humor and laughter are the best antidotes to aging. Together with a knowledgeable physician.

In 2013, she wrote a tribute to Erma Bombeck for Hubpages. “I believe this quote of hers sums up her lifelong philosophy: ‘If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.’”

Rakow could identify.

“She always looked at everything on the bright side,” Superfine said. “She was brought up in a loving family and I think at an early age she learned to be positive.”

Rakow would have to draw upon that ability and strength often. She lost her son Scott Rakow, a Miami Beach police officer who was gunned down at 28 while chasing a suspect in a drug deal gone bad in 1988. The circumstances required her to grieve in the public eye.

Months later, the city opened the Scott Rakow Youth Center on Sheridan Avenue in Miami Beach. (Her granddaughter Erica Rakow, 6 months old when her father was slain, is now a general assignment reporter for WPLG-ABC 10.) Rakow would also lose her husband and face her own battle with cancer.

“When all these things happened to her, she turned to her positivity and strength from within. I don’t think we could have handled our life the way she did,” Superfine said.

In addition to her children Sherry and Joseph, Rakow is survived by her son Steven, six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Donations in her honor can be made to the American Cancer Society and the Disabled Veterans.

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen