Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Bernard Francis Gaffney was born in New Britain on June 23rd, 1861, and spent his life in that city where he died March 31st, 1936. His early education came from the New Britain public schools. He earned his way through Yale College where he was graduated in 1887. He then studied law in the office of the late Philip Markley and was admitted to the bar in 1889.
In 1894, Mr. Gaffney married Alice Sherlock and to them were born three sons and a daughter. All the sons followed the footsteps of their father and became members of the bar. The eldest, Donald Gaffney, after a brilliant career, died in the prime of young manhood in 1935. His obituary notice will be found in the Connecticut Reports, Volume 120, at page 712. The younger sons are now practicing law in New Britain.
Judge Gaffney was actively engaged in the general practice of law from his admission to the bar until a few years before his death when the active work of his work fell largely to his sons. He was constantly engaged in litigation and had a large office practice. He was president of the Hartford County Bar from 1928 to 1930.
Throughout his life Judge Gaffney was intensely interested in the city of New Britain, an interest unflagging to the day of his death. He saw New Britain grow from a town of less than six thousand people to a city of seventy thousand. A manufacturing city and typically a "melting pot," the newcomers from Europe commanded his sympathy and his active aid. An ardent Roman Catholic, Mr. Gaffney took an active part in the religious and charitable enterprizes of his church. As a civic leader, he was corporation counsel, a member of the board of education, a member of the city finance board, of commissions on the city charter and on city zoning, and chairman of the New Britain draft board during the world war. In 1904 he was elected Judge of Probate and was unanimously continued in that office until he reached the retirement age in 1931. In return for that lifelong service he received a fitting reward, the love and respect of his fellow citizens without regard to race or creed.
Judge Gaffney was a cultivated gentleman, widely read in such varied subjects as poetry, history, religion and philosophy. He was fundamentally an idealist, a characteristic apparent to all who came in contact with him, particularly his brother attorneys. His ideals, personal and professional, were noble and his life was spent in their pursuit. He practiced law on a high ethical plane, always seeking to promote the true ends of justice. A stubborn fighter, he asked only a fair field and no favor. His old-fashioned respect for the law and the courts sometimes seemed Quixotic but it was real to him and distinguished all his forensic labors. Similarly in his civic duties, he pursued ideals of perfection with all the zeal of his soul. A simple, earnest, industrious, friendly man, Mr. Gaffney did much good in the world.
It has been the high privilege of the Connecticut Bar to furnish from time to time men who were leaders in their communities in all that tends to progress in the best things in life. Such a man was Bernard Francis Gaffney.