Katharine Louise Haffenreffer Selle (age 97) was born September 12, 1923 and passed away on January 4, 2021. Her father, Theodore Carl Haffenreffer, owned and operated the Haffenreffer Brewery in Jamaica Plain and was a member of the Boston Board of Park Commissioners for several decades. In honor of his service, the central path in the Public Garden was named Haffenreffer Walk. Katharine’s mother, Marie Rahr Haffenreffer raised the couple’s five children while also performing vital roles at Wellesley College, from which she had graduated in 1911. Marie was a Trustee of the College, was a leader in Alumnae affairs, and served as interim President during World War II.
During Katharine’s formative years, German was spoken at home. Young women were hired from Germany, to be mother’s helpers and to encourage the language in a natural way. Katharine attended Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, MA, and graduated from The Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, PA, in 1941. Her college was Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women (established in 1910) in Ambler, PA. It was founded and run by women, and its mission was to “educate women for careers in horticulture and agriculture… and to train them to grow and preserve food for the war effort during WWI and WWII.” Katharine studied farming and animal husbandry, a passion that began during childhood summers spent on the family dairy farm in North Hampton, New Hampshire. She also developed a love of horses, swimming, and golf while having good old-fashioned fun with her family. The summers ended with ribbons from horse shows at Harry Hooper’s Stable and trophies from swimming and diving competitions at the Rye Beach Club.
After graduating from Ambler, Katharine intended to run the farm, but her father didn’t agree with that idea. In her twenties, Katharine met Robert William Selle, whom she married in 1950. The couple were married for 65 years, until his death in 2015. They lived in New York, Connecticut, and Wisconsin before settling in Brookline, Massachusetts, in the house where Katharine was raised. A mother of six, she molded the lives of her young children with a loving, easy touch. She took the time to sew beautiful costumes and clothes, create clever handmade projects (flowers, hats, toy furniture), play games, and participate in the children’s school activities. Her loving care and warmth were felt by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and in-laws.
Katharine was predeceased by her beloved siblings Marie, Theodore, Frederick, and John Haffenreffer. With her sister, Marie Haffenreffer Fox, she ran the Boston Opera Company gift store for ten years. They shared their love of music and opera while selling T-shirts proclaiming: “Romance. Passion. Adultery. Murder. All to your favorite tunes.” Each week for many years, Katharine, Marie, and beloved sister-in-law, Jean Haffenreffer, attended the Friday afternoon symphony, a tradition started by Katharine’s mother.
Katharine moved to North Hampton, NH, recently and enjoyed the sunlight and wood fires in her new home. She hosted her family and devoted joyful hours to games, reading, Masterpiece Theater, movies, music, and conversation. On drives, she became re-acquainted with locations from her summers as a youth. Her greatest delight was visiting Forest Hills Farm, in North Hampton, where she had spent many happy summers. She shared stories of sibling adventures and summer days gone by. Her sweet memories included swimming in a round wooden pool made of beer-barrel slats; climbing up the ladder of the ice house to collect ice for making peach ice cream; being pushed high on a swing by her father; climbing through the attic into the cupola on the rooftop; horseback riding in the woods and on the beach; and celebrating Saturdays with hot dogs and baked beans, served up by her mother at their bonfire spot near the woods.
Family milestones, successes, and gatherings were important to Katharine. She greeted visitors with a warm welcome and presided over family functions as the honored senior member and matriarch. She was gracious, elegant, and beautiful inside and out, with a sparkling sense of humor. She will be deeply missed, and her memory will be cherished by her friends and family. She leaves behind her children William and Deborah Selle, Marseilles, France; Dr. Ben and Kathy Selle, Wolfeboro, NH; Anne and Michel Spitzer, Jamaica Plain, MA; Janet Selle, Keene, NH; Helen Selle and Peter Anderson, West Roxbury, MA; Joe Selle and Erin Sharaf, Concord, MA; along with 14 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. We would like to thank Sam Lay and Jeanetta Beach for the wonderful care and love they gave our mother and father over the last many years.
A memorial service will he held at some time in the future. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Boston Symphony Orchestra at bso.org/contribute.
Arrangements by Mann Rodgers Funeral Home, Jamaica Plain.MA
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