Obituary – Dan Jaffe, California Bookseller Noted for His Ties to Community

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Dan Jaffe, co-owner of Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma, California, and general manager of the entire group of eight Copperfield’s stores, died this month at the age of 50. The cause was apparently a heart attack, said colleague Tom Montan, who noted that Jaffe died at home sometime after March 16.

Before opening the Petaluma Copperfield’s in 1986, Jaffe was a community organizer. The first Copperfield’s was opened in Sebastopol in 1981 by Jaffe’s brother, Paul, who survives him, as do his parents, David and Norma Jaffe of Santa Rosa, California.

For many, Jaffe epitomized the best of community-based, independent bookselling. "Dan was a gentleman who had a huge, huge heart," said Montan. "He connected very strongly with the community -- he was a community bookseller through and through."

Paul Jaffe noted in the Petaluma Argus-Courier that "not only did Dan make himself a fixture in the community, but he made the bookstore a fixture in the community, and he did it in a remarkably short time."

Customers at the Petaluma store might find, in addition to a wide and diverse inventory, such activities as a sidewalk candidates’ forum scheduled during a city council campaign or a holiday book drive for local school libraries. On the national front, Copperfield’s was one of the bookstore plaintiffs in the ABA suit against the chains.

In addition to his work at the store, Dan Jaffe was one of the founders of the Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), which was established to offer help to homeless persons, and to persons at risk for being homeless, in southern Sonoma County. Montan recalled Jaffe setting out "a very large garbage can in front of his store for donations," some of the first seed money collected for an organization that now assists over 1,000 homeless people a year, with services that include meals and over 10,000 hours of licensed child care.

"Dan took very seriously being a citizen," said Laure Reichek, with whom he co-founded COTS, as reported by the Petaluma Argus-Courier. "He had an innate sense of community." Noted his brother: "Dan’s legacy is he made everyone feel welcome."

Funeral services were private. There will be a public service on April 28 at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma at 6:30 p.m. In addition, friends of Dan Jaffe are establishing an annual award in his honor, to be presented to a person or group that contributes the most to the cause of peace and justice in their artistic work. The first award will be presented to a young poet. Contributions to the award can be sent to the Dan Jaffe Memorial Awards, Box 750518, Petaluma, California 94975-0518.