John K. Rafferty, known to many as “Mayor Jack,” died Wednesday night at the age of 82.
In 1975, Rafferty became Hamilton’s first full-time mayor, a title he held for 24 years. Prior to his time as mayor, he served six years on the Hamilton Township Committee (now council).
He also served one term in the New Jersey General Assembly.
Under his stewardship, Hamilton Township welcomed Hamilton Hospital (now RWJ Hamilton), the Hamilton Train Station, and the development of Veterans Park. The Hamilton post office on Route 130 and the Hamilton YMCA facility on Whitehorse-Mercerville Road each bear his name.
After retiring from his position as mayor, Rafferty served as the executive director of the Hamilton Partnership and remained active in the New Jersey Republican Party, where he served on the New Jersey Republican State Committee.
Tributes have been pouring in since NJInsider broke the news of Rafferty’s death yesterday.
“As Mayor of Hamilton Township and on behalf of our entire community, I wish to express my deepest sympathies and condolences to his wife Doris and the entire Rafferty Family during this very difficult time,” said Mayor Jeff Martin. “I trust his family, friends, and loved ones will find solace in knowing Jack’s many years of dedicated service to our community will live on in Hamilton Township, Mercer County and New Jersey for eternity.”
Former mayor Kelly Yaede said: “Hamilton Township lost a truly good man, a dedicated public servant who loved his family and his community. He led a growing town into a thriving community during his tenure. He was beloved by residents regardless of party affiliation; a true leader who put the needs of residents first. The collective sadness realized today in Hamilton with the passing of Mayor Jack is palpable.”
In remembering Jack Rafferty, former mayor John F. Bencivengo said: “Mayor Jack Rafferty, his name and his life will never be forgotten. We lost our shining star, a friend to all, a great public servant, a family man, and our mayor for more than two generations. Once a mayor, always a mayor. To me, he was my mentor, friend, and a blessing in my life. Hamilton will forever be in his debt. He turned a place into a township, a township into a strong community of families, parks, schools, and thriving businesses – ‘Safe, Clean and Beautiful.’ We shall miss him; I will miss him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
From former mayor Glen Gilmore: “Mayor Rafferty’s legacy of leadership will forever loom large over Hamilton. He always cared about people more than politics – which is what we could use more of now. He was always a friend to me and I will miss his smile.”
Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes: “I knew Jack Rafferty for many years, and while we often stood opposite each other, Jack never hesitated to reach across the aisle. Jack was a dedicated public servant who inspired a generation of others to follow his lead. Hamilton Township has lost a dedicated civic leader, gentleman and friend, and my thoughts are with the Rafferty family.”
Mayor Dave Fried of Robbinsville: “Jack Rafferty was not only a giant among men in the political arena, he was a husband, a father, a mentor and a friend. Jack was the mayor I always wanted to be. He was a larger-than-life personality who garnered the respect of his friends, as well as his opponents on each side of the political aisle. I was extremely fortunate that he took me under his wing very early in my career and was always there to lend advice, or a helping hand at any hour of the day or night. My deepest condolences and those of my entire Administration and Township Council go out to his family and many friends. Jack was a true legend, and he will be greatly missed.”
Rafferty was a board member and influential figure for many years at the Hamilton Area YMCA. The YMCA has also issued a statement: “The board, staff and members of the Hamilton Area YMCA are morning the loss of Jack Rafferty, our branch namesake, long-time Board member, past Board Chair, loving YMCA member, and our biggest advocate. We are deeply saddened and mourn this tremendous loss for his family, the Hamilton Area YMCA and our entire community. Without Jack the Hamilton Area YMCA would not exist as we know it. We are forever grateful for his passion, support and leadership in our Y and in our community. Hamilton has lost a true champion today.”
Mercer County GOP chairperson Lisa Richford: “It is with a heavy heart that we say good bye to Hamilton’s Honorable Mayor Jack Rafferty. Jack was the consummate public servant, formerly serving as LD 14 State Assemblyman from 1986 to 1988 and Mayor of Hamilton Township from 1976 to 1999, and in most recent years served as the former Mercer County Republican State Committeeman before his retirement from that position two years ago. Deepest sympathy and condolences to Doris and the entire Rafferty Family from the Mercer County Republican Committee. Rest in peace Mayor, you will be missed dearly.”
This story will be updated as more tributes come in.