Princetonians bid farewell to a favorite resident with a celebration on Hinds Plaza

Mary Anne Haas greets friends who gathered on Hinds Plaza from her balcony.
Photo: Krystal Knapp.

The procession to Hinds Plaza began at 3 p.m. sharp on Saturday, with marchers banging spoons against pots and pans. The gathering was an orderly affair, with people marching in single file and standing more than six feet apart because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once the group reached the plaza, everyone looked up and waited. Finally, the woman with the trademark streaks of multi-color hair and nails painted purple emerged from her apartment and stepped out on her balcony above the Witherspoon Grill.

“Mary Anne! Mary Anne!,” residents shouted. “We love you. We’ll miss you.” The cheering continued, and people clapped and sang.

Mary Anne Haas smiled and waved, soaking up the love.

Haas, 94, is moving to California on Monday to live with her children. For almost a quarter of a century, she has been a fixture in downtown Princeton, making her daily rounds at places like Small World Coffee to socialize with old friends and make new ones. Even when she started using a walker, she walked around town every day, rain or shine, continuing to hold court at a large table at the Witherspoon Grill on Tuesday nights for live jazz.

“Since we couldn’t give her a proper farewell sendoff, we thought it would be nice if we all gathered to make some noise and show our appreciation for her friendship these many years,” said resident Steve Goldin, who remembers being introduced to Haas by a friend more than a decade ago, and then talking to her at jazz nights.

 “I love her zest for life, her love of meeting new people and always found talking with her both interesting and calming,” Goldin said.

Haas spent most of her life traveling the globe, working to create educational opportunities for women worldwide. In recent years, she organized symposiums focused on women’s roles in education and beyond. When she moved to Princeton, she fell in love with the town and its residents, says she considers her time in New Jersey one of the best periods of her life.

More than 50 residents gathered in the plaza and across the street Saturday to give her a proper send-off. As she looked down from her balcony, a friend began playing a Harry Belafonte song from a boom box, and Haas danced, posed for photos, and greeted her friends.

“I’m so pleased to see so many of you,” she called out. “I’m moving to West Hollywood. You can come to visit. I’ll have to write to you all too.”

More than one person wiped away a tear as they waved goodbye to Haas, knowing that Princeton will be a little less colorful without her.

Residents line up for the celebration.
“We will muss you.”
Witherspoon Grill owner Jack Morrison makes some noise for Mary Anne Haas.
Two residents on motorcycles ring bells for Mary Anne Haas.
Mary Anne Haas surveys the crowd.
An upbeat Mary Anne Haas smiles and poses for a photo.
Some well-wishers made posters for Mary Anne Haas.
The view from a balcony above Hinds Plaza. Video by resident Bob Ciotta.


  1. Beautiful story and beautiful person. In every way. Very touching and uplifting to read.

  2. Mary Ann is a treasured institution in Princeton. We’ll miss her walking by, stopping in, sharing photos of her family, and her famous birthday parties. Most of all, we will miss her spirit. Good luck, Mary Ann. We love you!

  3. Oh no! I never really met her other than a brief elevator chat here or there, but I always appreciate seeing her so much. I noticed when she had the walker and then I noticed when she resumed walking without it, and that gave me a lift. Just by being colorful and visible I feel she is open and sharing of herself. Too many people in Princeton live behind thick walls of their own making, they are closed off, lack creativity, and live to conform. I will really miss seeing her around. Have a great time in LA!

  4. I am so sad I didn’t get over for Mary Ann’s send off I met her at the bar at Nassau Inn one night a year ago and she immediately engaged me in a story about her travels and how much she’s loved living here. I always introduce whoever I’m with if we happen to see her walking the long walk she did daily. It makes me proud that this town attracted such a splendid young
    version of 94! I will so miss you Mary Ann!

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