Funeral Services for Veterans’ Advocate Ratka Planned for Thursday, Friday

(File photograph.)

John E. Ratka, 65, died Jan. 12 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, after a short illness, with his loving family by his side. Born in Philadelphia, Penn., Ratka was the son of the late Anthony J. Ratka and Laura J. (Schwartz) Ratka.

He was the executive director of the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center (VNOC). He joined VNOC in 1999, following a distinguished 26-year career in the United States Navy. Enlisting in the Navy in 1972, Ratka completed 21 submarine deployments, numerous surface ship deployments and attained the rank of command master chief. His major tours of duty included: Command Master Chief Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Command Master Chief Submarine Squadron 22, Command Master Chief Naval Air Technical Training Command, Lakehurst, New Jersey and Chief of the Boat U.S.S. Alaska.

Ratka was appointed to the position of executive director of VNOC in 2002. Since his appointment, the agency has seen significant growth. VNOC, which started as a small storefront operation in Lawrence, serving walk-in clients, now owns and manages 195 units of affordable housing and provides more than 10,000 units of service per month to veterans and their families. Under his leadership, and with a very dedicated staff and Board of Directors, Ratka established great partnerships with the Veterans Administration, Bedford VAMC, the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Veterans Services Officers and many local community agencies. These partnerships have been key to providing high quality services to veterans and their families while preventing and ending veteran homelessness.

In addition to Ratka’s devoted work with veterans, he was a dedicated family man. He loved being involved in his sons’ sports and activities throughout their youth and supported their goals and dreams as they grew older. He was never one to shy away from a get-together with family and friends. He cherished the times he traveled with his sons, whether it was following the Red Sox on the road to play his hometown team, the Phillies, or enjoying a beer with them on the beach in Aruba. Ratka was a loyal friend to anyone who came into his life and was always willing to lend a helping hand, making a significant impact in many lives. He will be missed dearly. ​“Fair Winds and Following Seas.”

Ratka is survived by his two sons, Ryan and Jake, and Katie, Ryan and Jake’s mother; his brothers Anthony Ratka and wife, Patricia; Joseph Ratka and wife, Carol; sisters Patricia McBride and husband, Charles; Carole Bongard and her husband, Daniel; brother-in laws Christopher Rivet and his wife Debbie, Matthew Rivet and his wife, Pam; sister-in-law, Patrice Ryan; several nieces and nephews. Ratka is predeceased by his parents, Anthony and Laura Ratka, his brother-in-law, Daniel Ryan.

Family and friends are invited to attend calling hours on Thursday, Jan. 17, from 4-8 p.m. at the Conte Funeral Home, 17 3rd St., North Andover. Funeral services will be held on Friday, Jan. 18 at 10 a.m. at Saint Michael’s Parish, 196 Main St., North Andover.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Ratka’s memory can be made to Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, 65 Cedar St., Haverhill, MA 01830