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
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.
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
Revered throughout the Boston community, Mr. Brennan touched the lives
“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
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
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.