The 70-year-old Maspeth man's death last month was ruled an accident by the city Medical Examiner. On July 21, Jaffe fell from the window of his sixth floor apartment at 52-15 65th Place. Though details were scarce at the time, in the hours and days after his death a picture emerged of Jaffe as a reclusive, possibly troubled man who kept to himself and rarely ventured outside of his home.
Reports suggested it was a suicide.
But the city doesn't think so, and neither does Miriam Sivak, his cousin. In fact, Sivak said in an interview, the problems that led to Jaffe's death might have come from bed bugs.
Sivak said the medical examiner told her it is possible Jaffe had been shaking a sheet from an open window when he fell out. The medical examiner did not comment on the way in which he died, only to say that the cause of death was “blunt trauma” sustained by his fall.
Regardless, said Sivak, Jaffe was not a man to take his own life, though his spirits were low after a spate of medical problems. He landed in the hospital for dehydration, and had been released just days before his death. And the bed bugs weren't helping.
They were “upsetting him quite a bit,” Sivak said. “He had not been well.”
Going to war in Vietnam changed him, said Sivak, who remained close with Jaffe after their parents fell out of touch. Though he did not see active combat, she said, the experience changed the course of his life. Yet he remained a happy person, she said. In recent years he returned to school, and was pursuing a doctorate at New York University - a lifelong dream - when he died.
“He was a very brilliant person. He was just eccentric,” she said.
The two spoke regularly by phone, and Sivak said he cherished the relationship. “He was always upbeat when he spoke to me on the phone,” she said. “There was no indication of depression at all.”
When she hadn't heard from him in some time, Sivak felt something was wrong. The news of his death came as a shock.