The kind heart of Joe Brennan

Jean Brennan’s daughters, Beth and Bonnie, already know what I am going to bring up when I stop at the Snowdon Funeral Home in Shavertown Thursday evening to offer condolences on the death of their dear mother. I read Jean Brennan’s obituary today with a heavy heart. She was 81, but based on the last few times I’d seen her, she was a young 81.
Beth and Bonnie know that when I think of them or think of their mom I automatically remember their dad and the unexpected kindness he showed me back in 1989. Joe Brennan, who died in 1993, was the legendary managing editor of The Sunday Independent newspaper in Wilkes-Barre. I knew him only by reputation. So, I was taken completely by surprise when he called and invited me to breakfast.
At the time I had worked for the newspaper The Sunday Dispatch for more than 20 years. I had started at only 17 and it was the only job I’d ever had. I had stayed there all those years for one reason: it was a family-owned publication and I was always treated as one of the family. That’s why Joe Brennan called. The family newspaper I worked for had been sold to corporate America and Joe Brennan, a fellow I would have sworn did not know me, was worried about me. Worried? About me? He bought me breakfast and counseled me about my future. In addition to praising my newspaper skills, which he had apparently observed from afar, he reassured me I had nothing to worry about. He knew my world had been turned upside down, he said, but he was certain I would be okay. If not with the new owners, then elsewhere in the newspaper field. He told me to not lose heart.
Why he did this I wondered for years. But meeting Bonnie, as a colleague at Luzerne County Community College, where I have been teaching for the last 30 years, and Beth, as a student in one of my public speaking classes, provided the answer. He did this because that’s the man he was. Joe Brennan was a man of great faith and great kindness. He reached out to me simply because he sensed it was the right thing to do. He spent his life focused on and caring for others. Something — Joe would say his God — told him I needed him. And he was right.
Joe died far too young for me to adequately thank him. But I’ve thanked him through by prayers and through Jean Brennan whenever I found myself in her company and through Bonnie and Beth whenever I’ve seen them. I’ll do that again on Thursday.

Ed Ackerman