Horace Albert Laffaye, 86, passed away of natural causes due to complications of late-stage Alzheimer’s Disease on May 31, 2021 in Durango, Colorado. He was a long-time resident of Weston, Westport, and Fairfield, Connecticut; and of Wellington, Florida.
After joining a private practice at The Willows in Westport, Dr. Laffaye served as Chief of Surgery at Norwalk Hospital for 22 years until his retirement in 2005. He was a member of several professional organizations, including serving as Past President of the New England Surgical Society and the Surgeons’ Travel Club. For several years, he mentored PAs as a professor with the Yale University Physician Assistant Program. Through his practice of medicine, Dr. Laffaye touched many: from setting broken bones and stitching up lacerations, to saving lives with his competent surgical skills.
Lifelong learning was essential to him, and he continuously sought to improve his knowledge. As Chief, Dr. Laffaye organized annual symposia for his colleagues at Norwalk Hospital, where surgeons shared their professional expertise, as well as spent time socializing for long weekends at places like Lake George, New York and Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Because of the many ‘type-A’ personalities involved, these weekends always included hard-fought competitions for golf and tennis awards, some of which he named after his grandkids: the Martina Cup, Derek’s Jug, Grace’s Tassie and last, but not least, the Gemini Cup, for the twin boys, Mark and Todd.
Serendipitously, it was during his practice of medicine that Dr. Laffaye encountered a patient who sought treatment for an injury sustained while playing polo. Thus began the re-ignition of a passion within Dr. Laffaye for one of his youthful endeavors back in his native Argentina. For two decades, Dr. Laffaye played polo at the Fairfield County Hunt Club in Westport, the Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien, and at the White Birch Polo Club in Greenwich, as well as matches throughout the Northeast.
After his playing days ended, Horace combined his love of history and passion for polo by reinventing himself as a scholar and author. Known for his steel-trap memory for the minutiae of tournaments long-past, eventually he authored or edited nine books and innumerable articles on polo in both Spanish and English, adding significantly to the historical record of the sport. In 2010 Horace served as a Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Museum and Library in Middleburg, Virginia, research which led to the publication of his work, Polo in the United States: A History. Whether on the sidelines of a practice or in the grandstands of a major final, Horace loved to share engaging stories of players and horses from the earliest days of polo to the more recent past.
Upon his retirement to Wellington, Florida Horace gave his time and talents to assist the Polo Museum and Hall of Fame in myriad ways, from helping the organization add to their collections of books, art and memorabilia, to serving on the Board of Directors and as Chair of the Nominating Committee for the Hall of Fame. Throughout his life, Horace appreciated the friends he made worldwide from the game of polo. He was as comfortable conversing with CEOs and Ambassadors as he was with grooms and other staff. He bonded with people through their shared love of the game.
In addition to his enthusiasm for polo, Horace pursued various outlets for his competitive nature. Some of his fondest memories came from the golf course, the unique challenges of the game and the opportunities for socializing with friends. In his youth, he both played and refereed rugby, and he met his future wife after a match at a rugby club. Also, Horace was honored with a lifetime membership to the Sports Car Club of America, having competed in rallies for decades when he first arrived in the United States. During his final years, his caregivers chuckled with great fondness at his exclamations from the passenger seat, “You drive like Fangio,” one of his Argentine car-racing idols.
Dad was predeceased by members of his beloved family: his wife Martha; sister María Teresa and brother Roberto; and of course his parents, all of whom he recalled strongly in his final years. He is survived by his daughter Gisèle Laffaye Pansze and her husband Trent of Durango, Colorado and their children; his former daughter-in-law Ann Kovarik Laffaye of Phoenix and son Patrick of Norwalk and their sons; his loving companion in his later years, Mary Boykin of Palm Beach; and numerous nieces and nephews and their families in Argentina.
After Martha’s passing, when Horace gathered his family for an Alaskan cruise, he remarked, “After I die, my grandkids won’t remember that I was a surgeon or an author. But they will remember that I took them to Alaska.” He was that kind of gentleman: generous, thoughtful, gracious. And even toward the end, his wicked sense of humor and his contagious laughter would emerge at unexpected moments.
Please join his family for a celebration of Horace’s remarkable life on Saturday, July 24th at noon at the Greenwich Polo Club, One Hurlingham Drive, Greenwich, Connecticut 06831.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Horace’s honor for Alzheimer’s research and support programs to Memory Matters, PO Box 22330, Hilton Head Island, SC 29925.