Wednesday, May 12, 2021


Walter Joseph Gaffney, Jr.


Walter Joseph Gaffney, Jr., 81, of Killingworth, died peacefully at home in the early hours of the morning on April 6, after a long and meaningful life. He is survived by his beloved wife Cheryl Gaffney; his adoring children Megan and Coriel Gaffney; their husbands Frank and Juan; his cherished stepchildren, whom he loved as his own, Meghan, Brendan, and Sean Fitzpatrick; their wives Stephanie and Kristen; his sister Kathleen Puhala; and his nine grandchildren, Bailey, Chloe, Caroline, Caitlin, Fiona, Alma, Teddy, Wilder, Felix, as well as a tenth, on his or her way.

Walter was born in Springfield, Massachusetts and graduated from Cathedral High School. He studied history and geography at St. Anselm College, and graduated from St. John College with a master’s degree in divinity. He received a second master’s in sacred theology at Yale Divinity School, and a third master’s in American Church History from Yale Graduate School. As a priest, Walter fought for racial and social justice, joining the Selma to Montgomery Civil Rights March in 1965. After ten years as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, he transitioned into social work and dedicated the rest of his life to empowering vulnerable people.

In the years to follow, he co-wrote a book with his mentor Henri Nouwen, Aging: The Fulfillment of Life, published in 1974, and he and his first wife, Jeannette Rogers, moved to Paraguay to provide support for human rights activist Joel Filartiga. Walter subsequently served as the program manager for the Department of Welfare for the City of New Haven and the Connecticut Department of Human Services, the executive director of the Connecticut Traumatic Brain Injury Association, the director of Elderly Services at the Community Action Agency, the development director of the Mary Wade Home, and finally the chief of staff for the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services for the State of Connecticut.

He served on the board of the Opportunities Institutional Center, Connecticut Association of Nutrition and Service Providers, and the Springs Learning Center, among several others, and was an avid member of Boyz Books and the Breakfast Club at the Mercy Center. He was well known by all of the librarians up and down the shoreline. Walter was beloved by all whose lives he touched, and was a friend like no other. He believed deeply in the inherent goodness of humankind, the Irish goodbye, the Yankees, and the fallibility of capitalism.

He was preceded in death by his father Walter Joseph Gaffney, Sr., of Holyoke, Massachusetts, his mother Helen O’Shea Gaffney, of County Kerry, Ireland, and his older brother Thomas Patrick Gaffney.

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