John Raabe: February 9, 1943 – June 8, 2022

John Raabe passed away quietly on June 8, 2022, 8 years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He leaves behind his wife of 45 years, Miriam, sons Adam and Seth, brother Harold, grandsons Ezri and Elkan, as well as other family and friends and a larger community of people whom he touched through his work as a designer of small energy-efficient homes.

He had a sweet sweet nature, a fine sense of humor, and a brilliant creative mind. He always loved learning, whether subjects he was naturally gifted at such as architecture, science, art, and economics, or others more foreign to him such as psychology, philosophy, and religion.

From an early age John had a strong entrepreneurial spirit, starting with selling books and lemonade from a stand he operated with his younger brother in Eastern Washington. He later took up, among other things, silk screening, photography, and making rubber stamps (a local Whidbey Island band, LAKE, even used his stamps on one of their album covers).

After launching his residential design business in 1978, he became a pioneer in passive solar and energy-efficient home design. In the 1980s, he taught classes in Seattle on practical home design and construction to homeowners, architecture students and owner-builders.

He called his first architectural design business Cooperative Design, which reflected his deeply collaborative approach with clients. The name was changed to CountryPlans in 1997 when it morphed into an online business where he has helped empower thousands of folks to build their own homes across the country with the help of a free online forum where they share their home-building stories.

John also had a deep appreciation of other cultures. From 1967-1969 he joined the Peace Corps where he designed and supervised the construction of schools, bathhouses and public water systems for Kurdish villages in Northwestern Iran.

After the Peace Corps, he worked for two years in solar research at the University of Hawaii solar observatory on Haleakala Crater.

On the About page on John’s website,, there is a section titled, ‘A conversation with John’ where he addresses four topics: the most interesting place he ever lived; the most important person he ever met; his most interesting job; and what he learned from school.

He talks, for example, about the village in Kurdistan where he lived and worked. For 6 long months he drafted a set of plans for a new earthquake-proof school. The plans were ultimately rejected due to the new roof design, which, while having the advantage of being able to ride out an earthquake, did not have the traditional heavy, flat, mud roof design. The problem seemed to come down to, “what will the fellow who sweeps the snow off the roof do if we build this?”. While it was a lovely example of a shared sense of community, John thought about that unbuilt school every time he heard about the thousands of deaths resulting from subsequent Iranian earthquakes.

The person who inspired John the most was Ken Kern, whose first book was called The Owner-Built Home. John read it and went down to California to see him. He ended up staying and working with him for almost two years.

And the job he named as most interesting was at the solar observatory where he ran telescopes and tracked the sun looking for sunspots and solar flares. “This was where I learned the nature and power of the sun and fell in love with clear air and high elevations.”

A memorial service is not yet in the works. When it materializes, there will be a notice in Drew’s list as well as on John’s Caring Bridge site. If you have not yet accessed it, you can go to and search for his name.