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June 21, 1937 – October 27, 2022
Denis V. Brenan, died at his home in Berwyn, PA, on October 27, 2022, after bravely enduring a twilight onset of Parkinson’s disease, a foe that quelled him physically, but never nicked his strong spirit. A man of boundless enthusiasm, he devoted his life to the legal profession, the military, and caring for his large family, as well as to copious academic, cultural, and athletic interests.
Mr. Brenan’s started his legal career in 1965 as a labor attorney for Bethlehem Steel. In 1968, he joined the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, and in 1971, he became a partner. He remained in this position for over 30 years, litigating labor, FELA, personal injury, tort, criminal, and environmental cases. He also took on pro bono work in the areas of criminal defense, domestic relations, and representing juveniles.
As an officer in the U.S. Air Force, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He prosecuted and defended military personnel in several high-profile criminal cases.
Born in Freeland, PA, in 1937 to Denis V. Brenan I and Clare Warg, he was the eighth of nine children. Growing up in the post-Depression Coal Region, he quickly learned the value of hard work. He was awarded an academic scholarship to Mining & Mechanical Institute Preparatory School (MMI), where he played varsity basketball and baseball. In 1955, as captain of the basketball team, he averaged 19.8 points per game. He was inducted into the Anthracite Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.
He attributed his professional successes to the academic start MMI provided him. As such, he remained a loyal supporter of that institution. He gifted the school the Clare and Denis V. Brenan Sr. Endowment Scholarship to support need-based financial aid to current MMI students. He led a campaign to raise $9 million for new science, drama and sports center buildings.
Denis Brenan went on to attend Lehigh University, likewise on an academic scholarship. To cover room and board expenses, he worked a variety of odd jobs, including short order cook and night watchman, while at the same time, he served as captain of the varsity basketball team and a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1959. He also distinguished himself at Villanova Law School, again on academic scholarship, where he was a Moot Court finalist and member of Law Review.
In addition to going on to lead a successful legal career, he served on several community organizations. He was president of Philadelphia’s Overbrook Farms community development association, working on a variety of zoning and community improvement issues. In the late 70s, he also presided over the Overbrook Race Relations Group.
Mr. Brenan was a member of the American Catholic Lawyers Association. Proud of his Irish heritage, he devised his own Ireland tour, which featured visits to all pubs named Brenan’s/Brennan’s. As his father before him, he was a gifted speaker and humorist who annually displayed his talents at the Freeland Sons of Erin St. Patrick’s Banquet.
He was a man who defied singular description. He regularly indulged his penchants for opera, classical music, theatre, ballet, and languages. Yet, he was just as likely to be found tipping down a Yuengling beer at a neighborhood bar. Local “all-you-can-eat” buffet owners shook their heads in despair whenever Mr. Brenan arrived at the door. He was also a formidable tennis player at Germantown Cricket, Martin’s Dam, and Overbrook Country Clubs.
Denis Brenan believed his greatest achievement was earning the love and loyalty of his family members. He revered his life partner and best friend, wife Patricia Goetz Brenan, whom he met in a Hazleton, PA, diner in 1958. He provided unfailing support to his seven children: (four of whom followed his law school path) Colleen Cochran, Denis V. Brenan III (Colleen), Clare Erin Friday (Richard), Clarence Kane Brenan (Janine), Kelly Brenan, M.D., Ryan Brenan (Stephanie), and Sean Brenan (Erica). He deeply loved his thirteen grandchildren, who called him Opa: Logan Brenan, Riley Brenan, Kylee Cochran, Finnegan Brenan, Carter Friday, Kendall Friday, James Brenan-Rothschild, Chloe Brenan, Macrae Brenan, Alexis Brenan-Rothschild, Ella Brenan, Theodore Brenan, Noelle Brenan
St. Katharine of Siena, 104 S. Aberdeen Ave., Wayne, PA, 19087
Wednesday, November 2, 2022, at 11 AM
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or St. Katharine of Siena Church, 104 S. Aberdeen Avenue, Wayne, PA 19087
Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Starts at 11:00am (Eastern time)
St. Katharine of Siena Church
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