August Haffenreffer, 94; concocted potent ‘Green Death’ beer
Microbiologist August H. Haffenreffer Jr. marveled at the longstanding popularity of the beer he helped concoct decades ago at the brewery his grandfather founded in the 1880s in Jamaica Plain.
Haffenreffer Private Stock Malt Liquor, nicknamed Green Death and Haffenwrecker by young beer drinkers for its potency and sale in 40-ounce green bottles, was hawked by Wilt Chamberlain in the 1970s and heralded in a song by the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. in the ’90s.
Mr. Haffenreffer, a longtime resident of Wellesley who worked for
Known as Augie to his family and friends, Mr. Haffenreffer “would talk about the beauty of the [beer’s] label and how successful it was,’’ said his daughter, Joan Haffenreffer Bartsch of Bronxville, N.Y.
His grandfather Rudolph founded Haffenreffer & Co. when competition was fierce among small breweries in the city. With its trademark smokestack, the Haffenreffer & Co. brewery sat on Washington Street and used cold filtered water pulled from nearby Stony Brook. The
Mr. Haffenreffer’s father worked in the brewery and was a Jamaica Plain pharmacist. His mother Ruth (Hardy) was a nurse at Faulkner Hospital. She was a direct descendent of Stephen Hopkins, a Plymouth Colony settler and merchant who was a passenger on the Mayflower, said Mr. Haffenreffer’s family.
The oldest of three siblings, Mr. Haffenreffer graduated in the early 1930s from Roxbury Latin School, where he won a prize for his Latin studies and gave the class address at graduation.
“You never wanted to be up against him in Scrabble or a spelling bee,’’ said his daughter, who is chief administrative officer for
In 1938, Mr. Haffenreffer earned a degree in biochemistry from Harvard. Two years ago, he enjoyed attending his 70th class reunion, his family said.
After the family sold the brewery to cousins who owned the Narragansett Brewing Co. in Rhode Island, Mr. Haffenreffer worked in the engineering and sales departments at Millipore in Billerica. He traveled the world consulting with companies interested in the advanced filtration technology he pioneered at the family brewery.
He was married 45 years to his college sweetheart, Marion (Gibby), whose brother was his roommate at Harvard. She died in 1986 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The couple spent most of their lives together in Wellesley, where they raised their daughter and son.
Mr. Haffenreffer had an enduring spirit of optimism, his family said. He could “make a good story out of anything,’’ said his sister Elizabeth Haffenreffer Monrad, who has a home in South Dartmouth.
After the death of his wife, Mr. Haffenreffer moved to Marion for a decade. He later moved to North Hill, a retirement community in Needham, where he made new friends and was always ready to discuss history, science or politics, his family said.
“At no point did he take anything for granted,’’ said his son Mark of Dedham, an orthopedic surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “He appreciated everything around him, and boredom never entered his life.’’
His daughter recalled how her father shared his love of history during a family vacation in Europe when she was a young girl. “We saw 13 countries in three weeks,’’ she said. “He had it all planned from morning to night. He was a walking history book.’’
Mr. Haffenreffer loved and played tennis into his 80s. He built a tennis court at his home in Wellesley, using his own car to pull out dozens of trees to clear the land over several years.
“He was a truly wonderful father whose personal example and commitment to family values has inspired me throughout my life,’’ his daughter said.
In addition to his sister, daughter, and son, he leaves four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Lutheran Church of the Newtons in Newton Centre. Burial was in Walnut Hills Cemetery in Brookline.