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)