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Susan M. Rafaj Dead at 88

The founder and chief executive officer of the Rafaj Associates consulting firm died at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital on March 1.

A memorial service will be held on March 22 in Manhattan for Susan M. Rafaj, founder and chief executive officer of the Rafaj Associates consulting firm. Rafaj died at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital on March 1 from heart failure, according to a spokeswoman for the firm. She was 88.

Rafaj, who began her career as a registered nurse, moved into the beauty industry in the Sixties, when she was recruited by Revlon to launch a line of baby care products under Charles Revson Sr. Years later, Rafaj moved on, holding a series of marketing positions at Helena Rubinstein, Shiseido Cosmetics and the Merchandising Workshop, overseeing the Revlon Professional hair care business.

In 1979, Rafaj founded Susan M. Rafaj Marketing Services Inc. with partners Mitchell Bierman and John Collier. The firm, which handles everything from package design to branding, worked with a roster of clients, including  Revlon, Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden, L’Oréal, Borghese Cosmetics, Laura Geller Beauty, AmorePacific, Escada Beauté and Puig, in addition to apparel, retail and luxury goods companies. “Susan was a force of nature to all of us. She would try anything. She was pretty fearless in this business, which is not an easy business to be in,” said Collier, president of creative services for Rafaj Associates, who worked with Rafaj for more than 30 years. “Her business was her life. There was no dividing line, where some of us try to separate those things and try not to bring work home, and for Sue it was all-consuming.”

Rafaj helped to establish the industry organizations Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors and The Foragers. Born in Dickson City, Pa., to a Lutheran minister’s family, Rafaj was one of six children. She received her R.N. degree at Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, Pa. Rafaj is survived by two sisters, Ruth Goodwin and Joan Olson, and sister-in-law, Mildred Rafaj.

The memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 122 E. 88th St. with a reception to follow.  In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Osteoporosis Foundation or The New York Public Library. A private burial will be held at Susan’s family grave in Peckville, near Scranton, Pa.