Raúl Guillermo Caffesse, beloved husband, devoted father, proud grandfather and esteemed Periodontist, scientist and researcher, passed away December 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas.
Raúl was born in San Nicolas, Argentina on June 27, 1939 to Orfilio Ismael Isidoro Caffesse and Nélida Esther Roucour. Within a few years his family moved to the city of La Plata where Raúl was raised. As a child he had a penchant for scholarly pursuits and excelled at every level of academia. Following in the footsteps of his father, a distinguished orthodontist in Argentina, Raúl graduated first in his class from the University of Buenos Aires in 1961 with a D.D.S. degree and a passion for periodontics. He practiced alongside his father in La Plata before being awarded a scholarship to complete his masters degree at the University of Michigan. In 1967, he completed his Master of Science in Periodontology and returned to La Plata. Upon his return he went back to the University of Buenos Aires to earn his doctorate degree. During this time he reconnected with the woman who would become his partner throughout the rest of his life, Elena Rosalia Hernandorena. They were married less than a year later, in May of 1969, for what would turn out to be a beautiful 50-year marriage.
Their first child was born in 1970 and in 1972 the family was invited back to Ann Arbor, Michigan for what was to be Raúl’s temporary one-year appointment as a visiting professor at the University of Michigan. That temporary appointment became permanent and it was clear they would not soon return to Argentina. Raúl subsequently became the Chairman of the Periodontics department at the University of Michigan. The family made Ann Arbor their home and by 1975 they had three loving children and were on their way to becoming proud Michigan Wolverine fans.
In 1988 the family moved to Sugar Land, Texas when Raúl accepted the position of Chairman of the Department and Director of Advanced Education Program in Periodontics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston Dental Branch. After a short time he became Dean Pro Tem of the UTHSC Dental Branch. He took great pride and joy in teaching, mentoring, and guiding students. He was like a father to many of them.
Raúl was the recipient of the 1989 Clinical Research Award of the American Academy of Periodontology and the 1989 William J. Gies Periodontology Award for his scientific contributions. He was honored in 1991 by the establishment of the Raúl G. Caffesse, D.D.S., M.S., Endowed Scholarship Fund at the University of Texas-Houston, which continues to give students opportunities to this day. His awards and accomplishments are too many to mention. He published more than 500 articles related to periodontics and has been honored by numerous international organizations. He was the recipient of five Doctor Honoris Causa Degrees from universities across the globe and was continually invited to lecture and teach internationally throughout his lifetime. He was especially proud of being honored by his alma mater, the University of Buenos Aires, with the bestowing of the name of “Prof. Dr. Raúl Guillermo Caffesse” to the Post-Graduate Lecture Room in recognition of his contributions to periodontics. For the last 20 years, he spent his time directing long-term continuing education courses in periodontics throughout Spain and Mexico. Until recently, Raúl was a visiting professor to the Master in Periodontics at the Complutense University of Madrid.
Raúl was a loving husband and proud father and grandfather. Family and friends came first and he was always willing to help with a smile. His ties to Argentina and the loved ones there were always held close, regardless of the years he spent in the United States. He and Elena were active members of Casa Argentina de Houston, and Raúl served as its president in 1994. He made certain to instill his love of family and tradition in his children as well, traveling to Argentina frequently to strengthen their connection to relatives and heritage. There was nothing that made him happier than sharing an Argentine asado and malbec with family in La Plata.
During the last 15 years, despite frequent travels, Raúl never missed an opportunity to attend his grandsons’ school activities and took great pride in always being on the sidelines to cheer them on. He could always be called on for help with school pick ups, doctor appointments or anything else.
Raúl was generous, kind, supportive and endlessly optimistic. He had a deep passion for travel and made it a priority for his family throughout his life. Together they traveled to many countries over the years. He was always focused on enriching his children’s lives by exposing them to art, music, architecture, history and culture. His joy for music and the arts was unmatched. He and Elena were longtime supporters of the Houston Symphony, Grand Opera and Ballet. But regardless of his passions, nothing gave him more joy than the time spent around the table with his wife, children, grandchildren, family and friends, enjoying a good meal and a great wine with never ending conversation and laughs.
Raúl is survived by his wife of 50 years, Elena Caffesse; his children, Maria Victoria Caffesse, Ana Marcela Caffesse Touchstone and Luis Esteban (Nadia) Caffesse; his grandchildren Sebastian Marco Touchstone and Matias Luca Touchstone; his sisters Cecilia (Alberto) Pagola, Monica (Horacio) Raverta; sister-in-law Marta Hernandorena, brother-in-law Martin (Susu) Hernandorena; nieces and nephews in Argentina, Spain, and Costa Rica, and many dear friends.
A memorial mass will be held in celebration of his life on January 11th at 1:30pm at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Houston, Texas. Reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Raúl G. Caffesse, D.D.S., M.S. may be directed to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Casa Argentina de Houston
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