Before Matt Gaffney began making important decisions for San Juan Capistrano 25 years ago, he helped set up tables and chairs at events in support of his father, Jerry.
“My father was always involved, whether it was leading the Boy Scouts or founding the historical society, so he seemed to know everyone," said Matt Gaffney. "He’s the reason I became active at a young age.”
Matt Gaffney continued to follow in his father's footsteps when his name was one of added June 28 to the city's Wall of Recognition. Jerry Gaffney, a World War II and Korean War veteran, was among those honored as inaugural recipients of the recognition when the wall was installed in 2000.
"I loved this place as a little boy, and I love it now," Matt Gaffney said.
While attending as a teen, Gaffney was an altar boy at the Old Mission Church, Boy Scout in the local troop and umpired Little League baseball. After graduating from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, he served in the Navy from 1971 to 1973. As a veteran, Gaffney is a two-time post commander with the American Legion.
Following his departure from the Navy, Gaffney—now running his own insurance agency—briefly worked for the Capistrano Unified School District while taking classes to earn his insurance license at Saddleback College.
He's currently serving his second term on San Juan Capistrano's Transportation Commission and is on the board of directors for the nonprofit . Before the foundation sprung up, Gaffney, as a member of the city's Open Space Committee, helped secure 116 undeveloped acres in the area for community use.
“Things like open space are our legacy,” Gaffney said. “They will last long after we’re gone, when we’re just old names on a plaque. That’s what matters to me more than anything.”