World travelers always looking to learn new things

Hudson couple embraces life's adventures

by Mariana Silva Photos Special to Hudson Monthly Published:

There is something to be said about a man who sees an alternate scenic route when he is actually looking at a 60-mile drive down a mining road off the Cascade Mountains.

"We just do crazy stuff like that," that man says. "We would rather take interesting paths than have a tour guide."

This is not a famous quote but the words and life experience that sum it all up for Hudsonites Robert Raun and spouse/adventure partner Eileen, both 70, who have been through some bumpy roads as well as green pastures while living life to the fullest.

"It was gorgeous," says Eileen about the drive through the mine. "And it was kind of scary," she recalls after a short pause as if getting to once again experience the thrill of doing things she knows people their age just don't do.

"It was extremely scary," Raun completes. "If one of the logging trucks had been coming the other way we would have no where to go."

People say life is a great adventure but Raun is more than the average main character hero in his story: he is the author.

A world traveler, Vietnam veteran, Bronze Star recipient, marketing consultant, entrepreneur, grandfather, book writer, publisher, campaign manager and founder of a non-governmental organization, he made sure to trace his own paths, taking his life experiences beyond the Ohio boarders, always guided by strong principles of faith, family and fellowship.

Far from a mere sightseer, Raun can tell people all about how he camped a couple blocks from the Eiffel Tower, served in Vietnam, fished in Kazakhstan, sailed in the Indian Ocean, and witnessed the smile of African people even after the Rwandan Genocide.

While he may have set foot in every continent but Antarctica, it was in Hudson that he and Eileen planted their roots about 36 years ago in 1977 with their two daughters. Daughters Christine Smierciak and Kara Trem live with their respective families in Aurora.

Eileen may call herself Raun's "sidekick" but truth is that she is as much of an adventurer as her husband.

Kara describes Robert and Eileen as "a very symbiotic couple."

"They really do complement each other, they are the two pieces of a puzzle that you need to complete the puzzle of life," Kara says. "Without them matching and connecting it just doesn't work."

The couple, married for almost 48 years, met while attending high school in Delaware. Inseparable since then, they got engaged while attending the University of Delaware, from where he received a bachelor's degree in biology and an MBA and she got a bachelor's degree in fine arts.

(It was at the University of Delaware, by the way, that Robert beat current Vice President Joe Biden in a race for senior class president.)

Tracing his own paths started early for Raun when he was selected as an American Field Service exchange student to Germany while attending high school. He stayed there for about 10 weeks with the family of a German war veteran.

"My motivation to be an exchange student was to represent American youth overseas and to bring back to my school the experience of being in a different culture," Raun says.

There he had the chance to camp in a tent a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower and learned American rock and roll songs and musicians were very much liked oversees.

Things just built from there.

"We've been very fortunate," says Raun about being all over the globe and back. "Naturally I went to Vietnam and came back, so that's an adventure, but we had an opportunity in 1984 to link with [Greenbushes], an Australian company mining some very exotic materials ... we were really just fortunate to travel and it was fun."

Owner of his own company at that time, Trinitech International, Robert's job as a third party consultant for Greenbushes was to visit processing sites around the world to understand how the company could expand their operations.

The job led the Rauns to places like China, Russia, Kazakhstan and all over Europe where they skipped the sightseeing to experience real life (and different cultures) with the locals.

"Witnessing the differences in what each cultured viewed as a priority, the drivers for their business, and the importance to penetrate the US market was an education," Robert says.

He says traveling and being able to see other cultures is almost an anthropological experience in which he learns as much about the other as he did about himself and his faith and values as a Christian.

It was by choosing to take paths of their own that the Rauns visited Rwanda in 1999 just a few years after the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.

Most people would rather not take time to witness sites left intact after acts of violence but the couple learned from the Rwandese that the horrific view of thousands of exposed bones were to remind the world to never forget about the tragic moment that the country lived.

"Seeing how the Rwandese handled conflict and resolution, forgiveness and grace was wonderful. They have a culture that we can learn from," Raun says.

Their business ventures also took the couple on a "cruise" to Kazakstan aboard a converted Russian gunboat where they fished and slept in hammocks around a crew who did not speak a common language.

"Bob and I also wandered though Germany, we wandered into Austria, we almost wandered in places that we probably shouldn't have wandered," Eileen says about traveling through Europe.

As Raun puts it, there is no definition to retirement in the Bible, so the couple never stops.

"The fun of experiencing world travel together strengthened and flavored our marriage," Raun says. "In addition, Eileen is a prayer warrior and shares the gospel. She had many chances to share and to receive. This influenced her to organize LePapillon Foundation."

LePapillon Foundation, which they run out of their own pocket, is dedicated to improve education and health care in central Africa and southeast Asia.

Back in the U.S. the couple operates EWRI (USA) Inc. and deals with high purity materials and converting non harmful residues into useful products.

"They very integrated," says friend Bing Henderson. "They do all those different things with quality, whether it be family relationships, church relationships, friend relationships with a depth of quality that is almost indescribable."

The Rauns and Henderson met in 2004 when the Rauns were preparing the Hendersons and a performance arts team for a mission trip in Uganda. And who would have guessed that in 2010, despite no prior experience as a campaign manager, Raun would help friend Bing Henderson run for Congress?

The latest chapter in the Rauns' adventure began recently when Raun published his first book "Tales of the Clam Club: Turtle Soup," which is the first of four books of a fantasy-adventure series fit for anyone older than 11. The book is also a Christian allegory.

The idea for the books came from stories Raun told to his grandchildren and later emailed to bond with the grandchildren when they moved to Rwanda for a about a year.

Raun, of course, had the help of attentive editor Eileen.

"Telling stories to 5, 6, 7 and 8-year-olds is simply fun and you have as much fun as they do in seeing their reactions and everything, you can just pull something off the wall and there is no character development," but writing books was different Robert says. "I had to learn in essence how to write"

As if writing a book was not enough of a challenge, the Rauns founded RELAR Publishing to help friends and other writers get published.

"I think a lot of people don't have the confidence to go out there and start writing but it is just amazing that he was able to write and publish. It was very interesting for him, he looks at everything as a new experience, and is always learning," Kara says.

Robert is currently in the process of getting his second book published.

"The perspective that I have as an adult daughter," Kara says, "is that I am so thankful when I ask [my parents] 'can you babysit Saturday night?' and they say: 'No. Sorry, we already have plans.' "I'm actually happy that they have such full and rewarding lives."

Though the Rauns very much enjoy watching their eight grandchildren at sports and school events, odds are that their Bucket List's still unchecked items will prevent them from babysitting many Saturday and Sunday nights to come.

They still plan and hope to visit Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the coast of Portugal, the Patagonia Desert and the Amazon.

"I would say we both feel young at heart," Raun says.

That might as well be an invitation to Eileen, who completes:

"Oh yeah, I mean, hey, there is a lot of living left to do."v

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