Albert Raboteau Jr., scholar and professor of religion at Princeton University, dies at 78

Albert Raboteau Jr.

Albert J. Raboteau Jr., 78, was a lifelong scholar and man of faith who authored five books, co-edited two books, published numerous academic papers, and taught and mentored generations of students as a professor in the department of religion at Princeton University from 1982 to 2013.

Known as Al to friends and loved ones, he died peacefully at home on Sept. 18 following a years-long battle with Lewy Body Dementia. Al was born in 1943 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, but largely grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Pasadena, California. He was intensely dedicated to his studies, entered college at age 16, and went on to earn bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Loyola Marymount University, Marquette University, and Yale University, respectively. Raised Catholic, Al was deeply inspired by the writings of Thomas Merton. He converted to the Orthodox Church later in life. He found great inspiration and solace in the Orthodox faith and was one of the founders of the parish church, Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow, in Princeton. Al was predeceased by his father, Albert Jordy Raboteau; his mother, Mabel Ishem Raboteau; his stepfather, Royal Woods; and his sisters, Alice Warren and Marlene Raboteau.

Al is survived by his wife, Joanne Shima, four children — Albert J. Raboteau III, Emily Raboteau, Charles Raboteau, and Martin Raboteau — and two stepchildren, Jane Bennett Smith, and Annie Bennett. He is also survived by seven grandchildren: Albert J. Raboteau IV, Oliver Raboteau, Magnus Raboteau, Lucia Raboteau, Paz Raboteau, Geronimo LaValle, and Ben LaValle. Al will be dearly remembered by all of them, as well as by his former wife and the mother of his children, Katherine Murtaugh; and numerous members of his extended family, including daughters-in-law Jane Machin and Cara Mafuta Raboteau, and son-in-law Victor LaValle.

Al will also be fondly remembered by numerous colleagues, former students, and friends. He will forever be recalled as a patient and attentive teacher; a caring father; a diligent, creative, and influential scholar; a generous friend; and a lover of the arts, film, literature, poetry, the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team, and a wide range of music spanning centuries, from Gregorian chant to spirituals to Bob Dylan.

The viewing will be held on Thursday, Sept. 23, from 6 to 9 p.m. at Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church, which is located at 904 Cherry Hill Road in Princeton. The Office of Burial will be held at the same church at 10 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 24. The ceremony is open to well-wishers and will also be streamed online at The burial will follow at the Highland Cemetery, 95 Hopewell-Wertsville Road, in Hopewell. In-person attendees for all events are asked to wear masks in consideration of the health of all present.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Arm in Arm, formerly known as The Crisis Ministry, in Trenton, which can be contacted at or (609) 396-9355.