Dr. Donn Marsh Brechenser, age 73, longtime psychotherapist and psychologist in Greenfield, passed away at home on July 26, 2013 with his devoted wife Sarena by his side, after many years of failing health. Born in Birmingham, Ala., on May 28, 1940 to Frank J. and Thelma (Gremp) Brechenser, he was raised in Arlington, Va., where he graduated from Washington - Lee High School in 1958.
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Donn received his B.A. in Sociology from West Virginia University, his MSSW in clinical social work from Virginia Commonwealth University and his Ph.D. in psychology from Saybrook University. He began his career in Child and Family social work for Prince William County, Virginia, and rose to become Chief Child Welfare Supervisor for that agency and then for the Arlington County, Virginia, Department of Human Resources. Donn moved to Greenfield in 1970 to become a psychotherapist at the newly established inpatient psychiatric unit at Franklin County Public Hospital, now Baystate Franklin Medical Center. At the time of his retirement in 2000, he was the Manager of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Additionally, Donn taught at Greenfield Community College, was an adjunct professor at Smith College, taught courses at North Adams State College and at the Shelburne Falls Learning Center, and ran workshops all over New England. For fifteen years he maintained a private practice of psychotherapy in Greenfield. He specialized in Transactional Analysis and aided in bringing that form of therapy to the New England area.
In his youth, Donn was a volunteer firefighter with the Falls Church (Virginia) Volunteer Fire Department, and he maintained a deep interest in firefighting and fire apparatus throughout his life. He served as Manager of the Greenfield Emergency Operations Center and was a fierce advocate and friend of the Greenfield Fire Department. He was the proud owner of an antique fire truck and an antique ambulance that won many trophies in various parades and musters throughout New England. Donn was thrilled to have the ambulance featured in the Hollywood movie ""The Box"". Additionally, he was a life long railroad and model train enthusiast and a member of the Amherst Railway Society. He was an active member of S.P.A.A.M.F.A, the Professional Car Society and several other hobby and professional organizations. He loved to write poetry and short stories and was a published author of a book of poems and a book on Virginia Railroads. He was a voracious reader and a deep thinker, who enjoyed frequenting Eastham, on Cape Cod. It was here, that he found great solitude in the sights and sounds of the ocean.
Second to his family, the greatest joy in his life was his home at New Hope Farm. This special and beautiful place became a refuge for countless abandoned and unwanted animals (large and small) that he and his wife lovingly cared for. His intense love of animals and the natural world around him brought great purpose to his entire life.
Donn is survived by the love of his life, Sarena, his wife of 38 years, four children, six grandchildren, three step grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Left to honor his memory are his children: Son, Jordan Brechenser (Jessica) of Bernardston, and their children Colyn, 11 years old, who was his very best and treasured buddy, and Hayden, 2 years old, who will miss her Grandpa so very much. Daughter, Jillsen Deignan (Noah) of Westerly, RI. Daughter, Shauna Lynn of Shelburne Falls and her children Julian and Arion Payne. Daughter, Jennifer Gabrenas (Mark) of Athol and their children, Tiger Clark (Ashley) and their twins, T.J and Serenity, Jeroth Clark (Megan), Mark, Joshua, and Kristen Gabrenas. He also leaves a very close family friend, Rose Nichols and his former wife Karin Clough.
He was predeceased by two grandchildren, Shaliida Payne in 1987 and Winter Clark in 1998.
Formal services will be omitted, but a gathering of family and friends will take place at the McCarthy Funeral Home, 36 Bank Row, Greenfield, MA, on Sunday, Aug. 4, from 1-3 p.m. Burial will be private.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to: ASPCA, P.O. Box 96929, Washington, DC 20077-7127 or to the MSPCA, 350 South Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02130 or any animal rescue organization of one's choice.
The McCarthy Funeral Homes of Greenfield and Turners Falls, MA, have been entrusted with the arrangements. Guest book and condolence message available at:
Published in The Recorder on July 31, 2013
McCarthy Funeral Homes
36 Bank Row Greenfield, MA 01301