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UF/IFAS Polk County
Cooperative Extension Services Director
LAKELAND - John Brenneman, a lifelong resident of Polk County and public servant passed away Monday, June 22nd, 2009 in Lakeland after a long courageous battle with cancer. He was a naturalist, serving the citizens of Polk County at the UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension office for 34 years. He will be remembered for his leadership, kind nature, love of friends and family and service to God.
His selfless devotion to improving local water quality and educating lakefront homeowners are a testimony of his commitment to serving the public with excellence and integrity. John's academic achievements shaped his career in water management and he was known statewide for his knowledge of the industry. He earned both his B.S. in Agriculture and his Masters of Agricultural Management and Resource Development from U.F. He was a certified instructor for the Florida Master Naturalist Program Wetland, Coastal and Upland Modules. With this certification, he assisted rural pond owners in becoming good stewards of their water property. He taught them how to manage surface waters and fisheries to enhance the aesthetics of their pond, while maintaining sound water quality. Utilizing his obvious passion for educating the public, John developed a program to educate lakefront residents entitled, "Living at the Lake." This primer has been used extensively for Florida's lakefront homeowners and by others interested in central Florida's lake resources. John also coordinates the Polk County Extension Water School. This program was designed to provide local officials with valuable information to prepare them for addresses important water issues and policies. For ten years, John worked to educate businesses and residents through the natural resource education program as a multi-county agent. Additionally, John has worked with volunteers associated with the University of Florida's LAKEWATCH program which was designed to monitor water quality in local lakes.
His professional achievements were many including the 1991 National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Distinguished Service Award and the 2003 Art Hornsby Distinguished Extension Professional and Enhancement Award. John became director of the Extension Office in 2005 and has provided leadership to the overall Extension program.
John has been married to his wife Terri for 36 years. He was a proud father of one daughter Emily (husband Ronnie Hough, sons Caleb and Walker) and three sons: Jacob (wife Serena), Adam (wife Heather, children Nate and Hanna), and Joseph. He is survived by one sister Mary Alexander. He was preceded in death by his mother Eloise, father Homer, sister Francis Woods, and brothers Mark and Lionel. John served God in many ways during his life including being a Sunday school teacher and Deacon at the First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland. John attributed his scholastic achievements and community interest to the 4-H youth development program his parents entered him into as a child. He often spoke of himself as a case study for the 4-H program that took a shy, overweight, child facing failure in school and supplied him with the life building skills which increased his self esteem, helped him to establish goals, built healthy relationships and instilled in him a desire to make a better community. In 1975 John became the mentor; hiring on as a 4-H and dairy extension agent with the Polk County Extension Service.
Knowing John's deep appreciation for this program has prompted his family to ask that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Polk County 4-H Foundation (PO Box 9005, Drawer HS03, Bartow, FL 33831). Funds will be used to support the youth of Polk County through scholarships and local support. Viewing will be Thursday the 25th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with a "celebration of life service" starting at 1:00 p.m. in the Worship Center at the 1st Baptist Church at the Mall, 1010 E. Memorial Blvd. Lakeland, FL 33801.
Published in Ledger on June 24, 2009