Fairfield Prep remembers Bruce Jaffe, longtime Prep educator and coach

It is with deep sorrow that we inform you of the death of Bruce Norman Jaffe on September 13, 2020, at the age of 76.

Well-known and loved as an inspiring educator, coach and lay clergyman, he made the most of a life quietly compromised by a chronic illness that was unknown to most.

Bruce was the son of a loosely observant Jewish father and a staunch Methodist mother in Easton. He was a member of Joel Barlow High School's second graduating class. He attended Yale University (Class of 1966) during some of its most turbulent years, where he majored in history and chemistry; there he also underwent training in the ROTC. Of his Vietnam-era time in the U.S. Navy, he would say, "I served on the dangerous waters off Norwalk."

Following a medical discharge, Bruce joined the faculty of Fairfield College Preparatory School, where he taught for a remarkable fifty years. He used his primary discipline, U.S. history, as a tool to develop critical thinking and the use of evidence to support it, often to the discomfort (and dismay) of his students. In this he made a profound and lasting impact on the lives of generations of young men. This relentless endeavor was not without recognition from his peers as well as his students, and exhausted the awards for achievements in the classroom, including Educator of the Year, Yearbook Dedication, Inspirational Teacher of the Year and Prep's Hall of Fame.

Bruce was widely known as the driving force behind the development and success of two Prep athletic programs, soccer and swimming — though he loathed being called "coach." And he was, literally, a driving force: for years he piloted the "Red Rocket," the school bus that took the teams to competition. As a master strategist, he led the swim team to victory in three state championships. Always a gentleman, he meted out punitive drills for lapses in sportsmanship — these drew inspired pranks in retaliation. He was selected National High School Coach of the Year for boys' swimming, and also served several terms on the national rules committee, the governing body of the sport.

Bruce was a man radiant in faith. At Prep, he served as Protestant chaplain, and cooked and served an annual Christmas dinner for the elderly and the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day supper for Merton House. Until the onset of his last illness in 2016, he was an active member of Jesse Lee United Methodist Church in Easton, where he served as Lay Leader, sang in the choir, and frequently preached when the pastor was on leave — covering in one summer seven funerals (of long-lived parishioners) during one three-week pastoral vacation. Jesse Lee served as a platform for much of his community service; he turned the Annual Turkey Dinner, a fundraiser for area mission work as well as the church's coffers, into a major event on local calendars.

At the age of 58, he met his future wife, Carla, whom he married in 2004, thus also acquiring a daughter, Romy, whom he cherished. During her elementary school years, Romy tagged along to most matches and meets, becoming an unofficial mascot for the teams. Yet Bruce failed to teach her how to swim, and despaired at her own soccer matches as she and her teammates turned cartwheels on the pitch during slow moments in the game. In 2005, the family took up beekeeping, and became charter members of the Wannabees, the youth class of the Backyard Beekeepers Association. Bruce was a gentleman; he was a mensch; and he was a very funny guy.

Besides Carla and Romy, Bruce leaves behind a brother, Stuart, of Fort White, Florida, a nephew John, and his family, also in Florida, a nephew James and his family, of Oxford, Connecticut, and niece, Gale Carlisle, of Shelton, Connecticut.

Circumstances permitting, a memorial service is planned for May 2021.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Bruce Jaffe Scholarship Fund at Fairfield College Preparatory School 1073 North Benson Rd Fairfield, CT 06824, and to the National Kidney Foundation. For assistance in making a donation please contact development@fairfieldprep.org or call 203-254-4237 (Please reference in memory of Bruce N. Jaffe in the notes when making your donation).

 

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