Remembering Saul Haffner

Saul Haffner died Tuesday, after a brief illness. He was 87.

He served on the RTM, was a member of the Y’s Men, and taught photography and writing at the Senior Center and Norwalk Community College.

Haffner was a US Army veteran. Professionally, he was an engineer who worked on NASA’s Gemini program, as well as a professor of business and marketing at Sacred Heart University.

But he is perhaps best known as a justice of the peace. In fact, he may have been the nation’s foremost authority on the subject. In 2009, I profiled Haffner for “06880.” Here’s that story:

“In the beginning of time,” Haffner says — back when he worked for the Congregation of Humanistic Judaism, not 1362 (the first time time “Justice of the Peace” appeared in English law) — he fielded calls from couples looking for rabbis to perform interfaith weddings. They were hard to find — so he vowed that when he retired, he would become a JP and do those ceremonies.

Fun fact: Every Connecticut town is allocated a certain number of JPs, based on the number of registered voters. Westport has 60 — equally divided between Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Saul Haffner (left) and a couple he married on Compo Beach.

After becoming a Justice of the Peace in 2001, Haffner wondered how anyone would find him. He looked around for a national JP organization. There was none. So he and his wife, Barbara Jay, formed one.

Their website — JPUS.org — is now the go-to source for JPs around the country. The site offers a registry (JPs can include their political affiliation, ethnicity, religion and languages spoken); resources and guides for personalizing weddings; an interactive forum (with topics like “code of ethics,” “same-sex ceremonies” and “how the economy is affecting the JP business”), and discounts on JP merchandise (certificates, embossing seals, chuppas, etc.).

Haffner performs 10 or so weddings a year. That’s low, he admits. But the JP does not want to compete with members of his own JP association.

Saul’s motto is “Your wedding, your way.” He’s married couples on motorcycles, on a boat that sailed into the sunset (Haffner returned to shore via rowboat), and in Scottish clothing (the bride and groom gave him a kilt).

“Weddings are such a happy occasion,” he says.  “I come away from each one on a real high.”

Not bad for a job with no requirements, no entry fees, and no experience needed.

(Hat tip: Jessica Bram)

3 responses to “Remembering Saul Haffner

  1. Charles W Haberstroh

    And he could dance as well! In an early 2000’s Forbidden Westport production by Sunrise Rotary. Saul, Bill Meyer and I (there were other RTMers) from the RTM did a dance skit on stage in black tights. (For those that don’t know or remember, Forbidden Westport was a series of productions with the common theme to spoof Westport) RIP Saul

  2. Thank you, Dan, for remembering my dad. He loved the Town of Westport; the Library, the beach, the town dump (!), his Humanistic Judaism congregation, the Senior Center, the Playhouse and most of all, the creative and engaged community. Westport has lost another great citizen! I hope Westporters will remember Saul always and keep him in their hearts.

  3. Wise man and great guy🙏

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