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William J. Bresnan

WILLIAM J. BRESNAN, a visionary in the cable industry whose 50 year career spanned from the early days of community antenna television to being the President and CEO of the nation's largest cable company, guiding his own company Bresnan Communications through 25 years of growth and innovation, died Friday at his home in Greenwich after valiantly battling cancer without ever once complaining. He was 75. He was also beloved as a devoted family man. A widower, having been predeceased in his prior marriage of 43 years to Barbara Boettcher Bresnan, with whom he had six children and eleven grandchildren. He is survived by his current wife, Ann Lessing Bresnan and her five children. Mr. Bresnan, born in Mankato, Minn., began his cable career in 1958 when at the age of 25, he designed and built his first cable system in Rochester, Minn. When that system was acquired by entrepreneur Jack Kent Cooke in 1965, Mr. Bresnan joined the Cooke executive team. Cooke's holdings were ultimately merged with TelePrompTer Corporation. Mr. Bresnan served as President of TelePrompTer's Cable Television Division from 1974 to 1981. In 1981, Westinghouse Electric purchased TelePrompTer and Mr. Bresnan was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the new company, Group W Cable, Inc. He left Group W Cable in 1984 to found Bresnan Communications, a company which initially operated cable systems both in the upper Midwest and internationally and which currently operates throughout the Rocky Mountain states. Throughout his career, Mr. Bresnan played a leadership role in the cable television industry. He did so formally through industry associations, having testified before the FCC and U.S. congressional committees on a wide range of communications and copyright issues. Known as one of the cable industry's leading contributors to technological advancement, he played a major role in the development of the first domestic satellite transmission as well as the country's first commercial fiber optic communications system. He was the recipient of virtually every award and recognition within the cable industry and was inducted into both the Cable Television Hall of Fame and the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. Despite a half-century of professional accomplishment, it is Mr. Bresnan's informal reputation, one of generosity and compelling friendship, for which he is best known. Industry pioneer Alan Gerry said "Bill has left a giant void in the lives of all of us who knew him. A modest man with a heart of gold walked among us during the many decades that he devoted to building his various cable television pursuits and the many legislative hurdles he overcame to become one of the true leaders and entrepreneurs of the cable television industry. Sandra and I express our deepest condolences to Bill's wife Ann and their loving family." Mr. Bresnan, having been raised, along with three siblings, by a single mother in a post-depression Midwestern agricultural community, attributed much of his success to having been the recipient of timely mentorship and remained dedicated to returning the benefit of his experience to the people around him. He did so through his association with diversity groups like The Emma Bowen Foundation, Inner City Foundation and the Fiver organization, but touched even more people personally. Within Bresnan Communications, many of his executive team, including three sons and his brother, Patrick, have been beside him more than the 25 year company history. "Bill Bresnan hired good, smart people and lead by example. He gave us the mission to succeed not just by doing things right, but by doing the right thing as well, and each of our lives is richer for having learned from him." Said Jeff DeMond, Bresnan Communications CEO. Mr. Bresnan served for over 35 years on the Board of Directors of the National Cable Telecom-munications Association. The Board of Directors of The Cable Center in Denver since its inception, Was Chairman of the Executive Committee and a member of the Board of Directors of C-SPAN, a Board member of Cable Television Laboratories, and the Cable TV Pioneers. A supporter of diversity in the workplace, he was also a member of the Board of Directors of The Emma Bowen Foundation, which promotes employment opportunities in media for economically disadvantaged minority students. Previously, he served on the Boards of Directors of Cable in the Classroom and the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau. A firm believer in the advancement of women throughout the industry, Bill Bresnan was an honorary lifetime member of Women in Cable and Telecommunications. Mr. Bresnan was also instrumental in lighting up the Chrysler building. While he was working for Jack Kent Cooke in the seventies, Mr. Cooke purchased the Chrysler building and asked Bill to look at it. Although an executive at the time, Bill put on his jeans and crawled up to the top, where he noticed unfinished wiring in the cut glass windows at the peak. Because of Bill Bresnan, the jewel in the crown of the New York City skyline illuminates the city of New York. Mr. Bresnan leaves his loving wife, Ann; his six beloved children, Michael, Robert, and Daniel Bresnan, Colleen Shelden, Mary Cashman and Maureen Ward; and grandchildren, Matthew, Peter, Sean, Melanie, Bettina, and Dylan Bresnan, Grace and Teddy Cashman, Katherine, Anna and Will Shelden. He is survived by his much loved sister and brother, Marilyn Berg and Patrick J. Bresnan. He leaves his in-law children, Mary Ann Sherry, Victoria Bresnan, Lauren Versel Bresnan, Brian Cashman, Donald Shelden and Michael Ward; and his stepgrandchildren, Donald Jr., Alexa; step-grandchildren, Haven Shelden, Emma and Michael Ward; and his stepchildren, Jennifer, Kirstie, Lindsay and William Benedict and Courtenay and T.J. Carella and their children, Ainsley and Devon Carella. A memorial service will be held at St. Mary's Church in Greenwich on Wednesday,December 2nd at 11 a.m. and the wake will be held Monday and Tuesday between 4 and 8 p.m. in the Leo P. Gallagher & Sons Funeral Home at 31 Arch St. in Greenwich. In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the Bill and Ann Bresnan Foudation, 1 Manhat-tanville Road, Purchase, NY, which is a charitable foundation that helps others in need.
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