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.