For the month of March (also known as Irish American Heritage Month) IrishCentral is tapping into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. The Unsung Heroes series features inspiring individuals from across the US who do extraordinary work in their communities and respective fields. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators, from a high school baseball team to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.
Daniel Gorman Jaffke of Indianapolis was a talented musician, a dear friend and a beloved son and brother.
The person who nominated him told IrishCentral that Daniel, who at 30 years of age was shot and killed during a carjacking in January, was a hero in one of the most simple but also most important of ways: being there when people needed him.
Whether it was using his only day off to drive an hour and a half each to way help his parents when his father was undergoing and recovering from open heart surgery, or taking four hours to drive his boss home in the middle of a blizzard so that he wouldn’t need to sleep at work, helping to dig other drivers out along the way, Daniel always went above and beyond.
The singer and guitar player of popular local band Two O’Clock Twilight, Jaffke was passionate about music – not just making it himself, but encouraging others to make it too. While in high school, he once sold a drum kit for $30 to a group of friends so they could start their own band.
Irish on his mother’s Gorman side of the family, Daniel held dear many of the good qualities the Irish are known for. As his friend said, “Anybody who knows anything about the Irish knows how strongly they value loyalty, family, and life. You can tell a lot about any culture by their folklore. Irish folk tales are tales of heroism, love of and loyalty to family, and of taking the worst situations and making them extraordinary. These tales show how the Irish got their reputation in the world.
“Daniel Jaffke was the embodiment of all of these amazing qualities. His friends, even ones he may not have known he was close to, all loved him. He was unique in that he had that hard-to-find quality of true loyalty. Anyone who knew him knew that the thing that made him special, aside from being a phenomenal musician, he that was always there for you. When the chips were down he would come through in a pinch, often sacrificing sleep or time spent working."
On January 31, 2014, while Daniel was working a second job delivering pizza, he was shot and killed as a man stole his car.
The outpouring of grief was immense. His funeral procession included close to 80 cars – and that was with all of the attendees carpooling. The funeral parlor had to open up three rooms just to accommodate them all. On social media, his friends began using a hashtag asking “What would Jaffke do?” They also fondly remember his wonderful sense of humor and fun.
Said the friend who nominated him, “That night, the world lost a true Irish soul. His friends lost the most loyal person they knew, his family lost a beautiful member of their clan, and the world was one more good person short.
“We continue to mourn this amazing person, and we celebrate him through his equally amazing music. Every tear that falls for him has a memory of how awesome he was behind it, and you could effectively fill oceans with them.”
* Originally published in 2014.