Colonel (Retired) David Newman Langton Brennan of Scranton, died Jan. 1, 2013, in the Special Care Unit of Regional (Mercy) Hospital of Scranton, at age 83. He had fought courageously for four months following complications from a heart operation. In his event-filled lifetime, Colonel Brennan had made a mark in three distinct fields — music, the military and Catholic secondary education — and left a loving wife of 53 years, Terry F. Brennan, three devoted children, and five grandchildren, and scores of friends of all ages.
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David Brennan was born in Carbondale on 9 September, 1929, as the sole child of Harry N. Brennan, a high school teacher and administrator, and Desales C. Boland, a pianist and music educator. On his father's side, a grand-aunt was Sister M. Leo Malone (1867-1915), a founder of Marywood University; and a grand-uncle the Rev. Dr. James W. Malone (1869-1916), Rector of St. Peter's Cathedral in the Diocese of Scranton. A maternal uncle was Dr. Clay Boland (1903-1963), who composed the jazz standard "The Gypsy in my Soul" as well as music for many annual productions of the Mask and Wig Club of the University of Pennsylvania. After the sudden death of his father in 1938, David Brennan and his mother moved to Blakely. His mother, Desales, died in 1973.
A gifted jazz trumpeter from early youth, Brennan headed his own big band (under the name "Don Desales") even as a student at St. Patrick's High School in Olyphant. In those years he also performed a dizzying variety of gigs that came his way through the Musicians Union, ranging from swing to polka, often with much older musicians and with no reliable form of transportation to far-flung venues other than his two feet. Decades later, David Brennan still was continuing his musical explorations, as a rich baritone performing the Eastern European liturgical repertoire with Archbald's Ekumen Chorale.
In 1947, Brennan enlisted as a private in the 109th Infantry Regiment of the US Army's 28th Infantry Division; in 1950, he left studies at Mansfield State College to re-enlist at the outbreak of the Korean War. In the Army, Brennan managed to combine military service with a musical career. He initially served as his company's bugler; later, on deployment to Germany in 1951-1952, he broadcasted and recorded as trumpeter with a newly formed elite band, the "Radio Free Europe All Stars." Back in the United States, in 1955 Brennan rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant after completion of the rigorous Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga.
A degree from the University of Scranton and a long and varied career of military leadership in the Pennsylvania National Guard followed, which included a diploma from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired in 1982 with the rank of Colonel. For many years, Brennan energetically participated in the Shopa-Davy Post 6082 of the VFW (Blakely) and Raymond Henry Post 327 of the American Legion (Olyphant), in addition to the 28th Infantry Division Association. In 2002 he visited the 109th Infantry during its command of Task Force Eagle in Bosnia; he also twice participated in commemorations honoring veterans of the 28th Infantry Division in Luxembourg. For decades, Brennan also played the bugle at several hundred military funerals throughout eastern and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
David Brennan combined his high-level National Guard career with devotion to Scranton's parochial school system. For more than three decades, starting in 1964, he taught American and World History and civics in the Diocesan high schools that served students of the city's South Side: South Scranton Central Catholic, renamed in 1973 as Bishop Klonowski (where he held the positions of Dean of Discipline and Vice Principal); and after the closing of Bishop Klonowski in 1982, at Bishop Hannan High School. In the 1970s Brennan coached golf and introduced and coached the sport of Olympic team handball at Bishop Klonowski. A devoted teacher and administrator who earned the respect of both religious and lay faculty, Brennan also was a member of the Diocesan School Board in the 1970s as well as various Catholic teachers' associations. He retired from teaching in 1995.
In 1959, David Brennan and his wife, Terry, a social worker, were married at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City; they had first met in 1946, high school sweethearts joined through their mutual love of music. Since 1965 they resided in the Green Ridge section of Scranton.
Colonel Brennan is survived by his wife; their sons, T. Corey, Ph.D., of Princeton N.J., married to Antonia Fried, Psy.D., with children Samuel, Nicholas and Allegra; and David Neal, of Baylor's Lake; and their daughter, Brigid Lyons, of Upper Bucklebury, Berkshire, England, married to Simon Pope, with children Ella and Alexander. His traveling companion in the 1970s and 1980s was his beloved St. Bernard dog, Barry Owen.
The military-themed St. Patrick's Day parties David hosted for 35 years at his home with his son, David Neal, became the stuff of legend and included in 2007 an in-house performance by the marching band of 28th Infantry Division.
The funeral will be Saturday at 11 a.m. with Mass of Christian Burial in St. Paul's Church, 1510 Penn Ave., Scranton. Anyone attending the funeral is asked to proceed directly to the church on Saturday. Interment with full Military Honors, Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery, Finch Hill, Carbondale.
Friends may call Friday, 3 to 7 p.m., in the McGoff-Hughes Funeral Home Inc., 1401 Capouse Ave., Scranton.
Charitable donations may be made to Pennsylvania Wounded Warriors Inc., 2665 Lake Meade Road, East Berlin, PA 17316; or Friends of the PA Military Museum and 28th Division Shrine, PO Box 160A, Boalsburg, PA 16827.
Published in Scranton Times on Jan. 3, 2013