February 3, 2009

TODAY marks the 139th year

The United States Constitution was amended(Amendment 15, Sec.1)to allow all persons who were citizens, regardless of color and former servitude to vote.

I'd like to celebrate this great anniversary by sharing an Irish story of a good friend. Irish were also discriminated against and their hardships were greatly spoken about by the black leader Frederick Douglass. READ about this interesting connection HERE.

Here's to you and your dad Tom ~

My dad was born on February 3, 1909.

If he were still alive today, he would be 100 years old a week from next Tuesday.

Inevitably, that looming date will probably cause some type of story to come out of my fingertips, but it also brought to mind another story that I had written about two years ago on the anniversary of his death, which I titled "the ghost of Larry Brennan".

As we all get older, we come to the realization that the legacy of our parents lives on in us.

Through our business dealings, you'd probably agree that I'm an honorable man.

The story about my dad will help you to understand why.


The ghost of Larry Brennan

I always think of my dad at this time of the year, because he passed away on Halloween Day of 1994. As I reviewed today’s almanac, I discovered that another well known person ALSO breathed his last breath on October 31.

“Papa Bear” Halas, the owner of the Chicago Bears, expired on October 31 of 1983. Remarkably, he and my dad also came within hours of having the same birthday.
Dad was born on February 3 (the feast of St Blaise), 1909, and George Halas was born on February 2 (Ground Hog Day)of 1895. Another gifted athlete, George Herman Ruth, was born a day later, on February 3 of 1895. Even though my dad was far from a star baseball player, he shared the same birthday as Babe Ruth, arguably THE best player who has ever played the game.

October 31, 1994 was a miserable, wet, sloppy day. I had been on my new job at CIGNA Insurance Company for roughly two weeks. After a business lunch in downtown Chicago, I was drying my socks in the microwave (I’m dead serious) when my mom called from Minnesota. Dad had had another heart attack, while enjoying a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, and never regained consciousness.(Ironically, the Bears had a game that same night. Since it was perfect Bears football weather, they beat San Francisco 23 to 13.)

Dad had always been proud of his Irish heritage (as I am), but he also came from a generation that always got a lump in their throat when the sound of “God Bless America” came through a loudspeaker at some public event. At the funeral a few days later, the organist played “Danny Boy”, and I found myself REALLY fighting to maintain control of my emotions.

I didn’t present dad’s eulogy (although I DID do the eulogies for my mom and my father in law), and I really don’t remember too much of what the priest said that day. However, what I DO remember is a comment that my cousin Jean said at the wake, and it’s stuck with me ever since:

All she said was, “you know, he was a really good guy”.

Dad was shaped by two world wars and the Great Depression, and he managed to instill in his kids (my sister and I) the values of thrift, honesty, and compassion. He also stressed the importance of always having the courage to do the right thing, even if that meant making some difficult choices, and he led by example.
To dad’s credit, he really didn’t have a lot of vices.

I watched him turn green a few times when he tried to smoke a cigar, and he enjoyed a couple of Hamm’s beers on occasion, but that was about it. I always smile when I remember the look on his face when he tasted his first Rusty Nail, when he came to visit me in Virginia shortly after I completed my basic training.

THAT was a look of a man in ecstasy!

Dad never made a pile of money, and nobody is ever going to erect a building in his honor, but in today’s world, we’d all be better off if there were a few more people whose highest accolade was that they were “a really good guy”.

written 10/31/2006


Dave Carlson said...

Tom Brennan is a good friend, since 1966. I knew his father Larry, but did not know his year of birth was the same as my dad, May 22, 1909.

The Irish connection is through my son-in-law, a true Irish man from County Tipperary. I did not learn from him the attempted extermination of the Irish Trail of Tears, Cromwell's forced winter march. That I learned from another acquaintance whose heritage is from the Ring of Kerry. My Viking heritage is an older variation on that theme. See the Grange Museum in Waterford.

The American Irish heritage I learned first hand in St. Paul. The blatant prejudice of the English did not appear in the history I experienced. I learned about that at the Chicago Historical Society.

Houseonahill said...


You and Tom are so informative...and information is my idea of fun.



Diane Pontius said...

Hi Tom,

What would your father say about all the shenanigans on Wall Street e.g. toxic assets, derivatives etc.

Diane Pontius

p.s. Is Rusty Nail a drink?