John J. Brennan, Jr.
August 9, 1924 – December 6, 2006


“Brennan, you don’t shake,” was the message sent by Mafia kingpin Joseph Barboza Baron to John “Jack” Brennan after an incident near Maverick Square in East Boston. A local youth had been threatening to start a gunfight until Brennan stepped directly into his path. “Put that gun away,” ordered Brennan fearlessly. The young man pointed the weapon at Brennan’s face. “I could shoot you right now, Mr. Brennan,” he said.

Years later, Jack Brennan nodded with satisfaction as he recounted the incident. “When the kid called me ‘Mr. Brennan,’ I knew I had him. I told him to put the gun away and go home to his mother. He did just as I told him.”

This was just one remarkable incident in the career of Jack Brennan of West Roxbury, who recently lost his battle with cancer at age 82.

Jack Brennan graduated from Boston College High School in 1943 and enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. He learned to fly an 80 hp Jenny biplane and served as a radioman/gunner in B-24 aircraft of the 10th Army Air Corps, 7th Bomb Group. Under command of British Lord Mountbatten, Brennan completed thirty-seven combat missions over “The Hump,” the Himalayan Mountains, ferrying gasoline from Tezpur, India to Chinese Nationalist forces in Chengdu, China. He was later decorated for his service by the Republic of China.

After the war, Jack Brennan graduated from Boston College and began a thirty-eight year career with the Boston Public Schools, first as a teacher at the Rogers School in Hyde Park and later as a Pupil Adjustment Counselor in East Boston, Hyde Park, Roxbury and Mattapan. During the raucous days of forced busing, Jack once defused a riot at Hyde Park High when students mistook him for Captain Kangaroo. With his white hair, mustache and double breasted blue blazer, Jack Brennan did bear a striking resemblance to the famous television figure. When the troublemakers spotted him, they froze in amazement and began asking about his sidekick Mr. Greenjeans. “He’s over at the junior high,” Brennan responded cheerily.

Jack Brennan was a prolific writer and one of the few conservative satirists of the 1960’s and 70’s. He appeared in National Review, the London Times, Review of the News and many other publications. At the invitation of President Gerald R. Ford, Jack joined other notables such as Pat Paulsen and Chevy Chase at a symposium on Humor and the Presidency in 1986. Jack was active in the Massachusetts 8th Air Force Historical Society and served as editor of the Vapor Trails newsletter.
A longtime usher at Brookline's Infant Jesus Church, Jack will be buried in the National Cemetery in Bourne with his wife Anne. He is survived by his sister Barbara Smillie of Walpole, daughter Patricia Brennan of Alexandria, Virginia, son John Brennan III and his wife Maureen, and grandsons, John IV and James Brennan, all of Maryland and East Sandwich, MA.

Funeral Mass will be held at 10AM at St. Theresa d’Avila on Saturday, December 9. Donations to the American Cancer Society, 30 Speen Street, Framingham, Mass. 01701, may be given in his name.

Eulogy written by John J. Brennan, III.

Condolences may be emailed to Patti.

Click here for Vapor Trails archived newsletters. Final publication April 2005.


Boston Herald Article

John J. Brennan
By Bostonherald.com staff
Monday, December 11, 2006

John J. “Jack” Brennan Jr. of West Roxbury, a decorated World War II veteran and retired Boston public school teacher, died of cancer Wednesday at Boston Center in Roslindale. He was 82.

Born and raised in Brookline, Mr. Brennan graduated from Boston College High School in 1943. He later graduated from Boston College. He had lived in West Roxbury for 50 years.
During World War II, Mr. Brennan enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served as a radioman/gunner in the B-24 aircraft of the 10th Army Air Corps 7th Bomb Group. Under the command of British Lord Mountbatten, Mr. Brennan completed 37 combat missions over “The Hump,” the Himalayan Mountains, ferrying gasoline from Tezpur, India, to Chinese Nationalist forces in Chengdu, China. He was later decorated for his service by the Republic of China.
After graduating from college, he began a 38-year career with the Boston public schools, first as a teacher at the Rogers School in Hyde Park and later as a pupil adjustment counselor in East Boston, Hyde Park, Roxbury and Mattapan.

Revered throughout the Boston community, Mr. Brennan touched the lives of many.
“My dad worked for many years with children who were abused and emotionally disabled,” said John Brennan III yesterday. “He would talk to the parents, go into the bad neighborhoods and had a reputation for being a straight-shooter.”

According to family lore, during the raucous days of forced busing, he once defused a riot at Hyde Park High when students mistook him for Captain Kangaroo because of his white hair, mustache, double-breasted blazer and friendly demeanor. When the troublemakers spotted him, they froze in amazement and began asking about his sidekick, Mr. Green Jeans. “He’s over at the junior high,” Brennan responded cheerily.

His family recalled he also once faced down an armed teen threatening to start a gunfight, stepping directly into his path.

“I could shoot you right now, Mr. Brennan,” the boy said. Years later, Brennan recalled, “When that kid called me ‘Mr. Brennan,’ I knew I had him. I told him to put the gun away and go home to his mother. He did just as I told him.’

“There are so many stories, so many good, so many sad,” said John Brennan III. “In the end there are many who got help to improve their lives.”

Mr. Brennan was a prolific writer and one of the few conservative satirists of the 1960s and ’70s. His work appeared in the National Review, the Times of London and the Review of the News, as well as many other publications.

He campaigned strongly in South Boston for Boston Mayor Ray Flynn.
“He was always willing and agreeable and helpful,” Flynn said last night. “I can recall him being an effective communicator and teacher with an outstanding reputation. And a very fine man.”
Active in the 8th Air Force Historical Society, Mr. Brennan also served as editor of the Vapor Trails newsletter.

He was a longtime usher at Infant Jesus Church in Brookline.
Husband of the late Anne M. (Driscoll), Mr. Brennan is survived by a daughter, Patricia L. of Alexandria, Va.; a son, John J. III of East Sandwich and Maryland; a sister, Barbara Smillie of Walpole; two grandsons; and several nieces and nephews.

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