Hamilton Township Mourns Loss Of Former Mayor John K. “Jack” Rafferty

Jack was born May 1, 1938 and passed on February 17, 2021 at age 82, he served as Hamilton Township Mayor from 1976 to 1999, he also served NJ General Assembly 14th District from  1986 to 1988 and also ran for NJ Governor in 1981

MidJersey.news has reached out to others in the community to reflect on the loss of Jack. Please check back we will have more to add to this story soon.

February 18, 2021 updated with additional reflections from the community, more to follow.



HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Yesterday, Hamilton Township, Mercer County, and the State of New Jersey lost one of the greats, John K. Rafferty.  Jack Rafferty, as everyone knew him, was a well-respected man who dedicated 24 years of his life as Hamilton Township’s first full-time Mayor.  Prior to his time as Mayor, Jack served six years on what was then the Hamilton Township Committee (now Council).  Jack’s love of public service did not end there, as he also served one term in the New Jersey General Assembly.

Jack’s tenure as Mayor saw Hamilton Township become one of New Jersey’s largest municipalities.  Under his stewardship Hamilton Township welcomed Hamilton Hospital (now RWJ Hamilton), the Hamilton Train Station, and the development of Veterans Park.  Jack will forever leave his mark on Hamilton Township as Hamilton’s main post office on Route 130 and the YMCA facility on Whitehorse-Mercerville Road each bear his name. 

Jack continued to give back to Hamilton Township after retiring from his position as Mayor – serving as the Executive Director of the Hamilton Partnership and remaining active in the New Jersey Republican Party where he served on the New Jersey Republican State Committee.  A mentor to many and a friend to all, Jack’s legacy will live on through his children and grandchildren as well as all those who had the pleasure of knowing him.

“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 commented, “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 stated, “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.”

Former Mayor Glen Gilmore expressed his condolences, stating, “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.” 

“Mayor Rafferty left an indelible mark on Hamilton Township.  We can all learn from his example and strive to be more like Jack,” said Mayor Martin.


Norman Smith, Robbinsville resident and co-founder of Project Freedom said, “Jack Rafferty was a friend; he was a friend to me, a friend to Project Freedom, and a friend to the disability community. I was a small part of Jack’s gubernatorial campaign, and this opened doors for me to co-found Project Freedom. When Jack was in the legislature, he secured seed money that enabled our first complex to be planned. Jack established one of the first Mayor’s Office for Disabilities in New Jersey during a time when we had very limited community visibility. He truly was an angel to Project Freedom, and for that reason we gave Jack our first Angel Award.”


U.S. Representative Chris Smith said, “Jack Rafferty was an extraordinary leader—a visionary and doer of great deeds—especially for the people of Hamilton Township.  He was smart, tenacious, selfless and had a sense of humor that always brought a smile to anyone he met. He was kind and caring—and had a great big heart. As the can-do mayor, Jack made Hamilton a great place to live and improved the quality of life for all. All Hamiltonians were his priority I was privileged to work with Jack on many projects including establishing the Hamilton train station and securing Hamilton’s postal identity. Like a great quarterback, he knew how to effectively lead the Rafferty team of dedicated professionals. He and first lady Doris made all of us Hamiltonians proud.

My wife Marie and I considered Jack a good friend who lent his political expertise to many of my campaigns. We mourn Jack’s passing but celebrate a life that has made all the difference in the world. Rest in peace, our friend.”


Robbinsville Mayor Dave Fried said, “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.”   


Former Senator Bill Baroni said, “Today, a big part of the heart and soul of Hamilton – my hometown – is gone.  Perhaps no person since our namesake Alexander Hamilton has done more to make our town what it is today than our Mayor Jack Rafferty.

I have known Mayor Rafferty my whole life.  I remember him in my living room at a meeting of our neighborhood association; he came to our little block parties, our school assemblies, our soccer league openings.  He was there when my Mom died – and he performed the wedding when my Dad married my stepmom.  Everyone in Hamilton knew him – because he knew us.  He made our town the perfect place to grow up.  Today, because we have lost Jack Rafferty, our town is a little less perfect.

It seems we are losing Hamilton’s greatest generation.  Jack Lacy, Jack Zoller, Franny McManimon, Maury Perilli, Paul Kramer, and now our Mayor Jack Rafferty.  All of us in politics follow in their footsteps and can only hope to do a fraction of the works they did.

Mayor Rafferty loved the theatre.  In the hit musical Hamilton – our towns namesake – the last line sang by all the cast is, “Who tells your story?”  Mayor Rafferty, we will tell your story.  A story that takes us to Sayen Gardens and Veterans Park; to a library we never had, parks we could only imagine; a police station that helps keep us safe; and the fact that we can use “Hamilton” on our mail.  There are thousands of stories we will tell – because you made our town.

Jack Rafferty, Rest in Peace.  Or in his beloved Irish, Seán Ó Rabhartaigh, Ar dheis dé go raibh a anam.” — Bill Baroni


Governor Phil Murphy said, “Over 24 years in office, former Hamilton Mayor Jack Rafferty helped transform the town into a thriving and growing community. We send our condolences to his family and to every Hamiltonian whose life he impacted.”




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