Capt. William F. Brennan ’43-2
Falmouth – William Francis Brennan, CDR, USN (Ret), passed away peacefully in the spiritual embrace of his family on September 28, 2022, after a long and full life. Bill, known by many as Captain “B,” is the eldest of William and Mabel Brennan’s four sons. He was born on January 29, 1923, in Brockton, Massachusetts. As described in his autobiography, written in 2010 and given as Christmas gifts to his four children, “It was a cold, very much a New England winter night…that I entered, passing from my very warm…home into the ‘breathing freezing world’ of parents, family and all manner of humans.” Over the course of the next 99 years, he would demonstrate to the world that he was very much a humanist, understanding human frailties and encouraging others with strength, compassion and affection.
Bill Brennan grew up in Whitman, Massachusetts. Upon finishing high school his parents drove him to the Kents Hill School into what he referred to as the “wilds of Maine” to burnish his academic record so he could attend Boston College. World War II got in the way of those plans and set him on a course that would eventually make the State of Maine his home. Bill and four of his Kents Hill classmates enrolled as midshipmen in the just established Maine Maritime Academy.
Upon graduation in 1943, Bill took a commission as an Ensign in the U.S. Navy. His first Navy assignment also become his first command as the captain of a 110 foot sub chaser, and he spent the war sailing in both Pacific and Atlantic waters. Following the war, he went to Pensacola, Florida for flight training and the beginning of the next part of his career, as a Naval Aviator. It was a posting as a young aviator to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station that would be the most fateful of all his Navy assignments. There he met a young Navy nurse, Ethel Humphreys, the love of his life who he married on her birthday, August 12, 1950. For the next fifteen years, they were stationed to bases across the country as well as the island of Bermuda.
In 1966, Bill retired from the Navy and came full circle back to his alma mater, as the Academy’s first Commandant of Midshipmen. For 20 years, he helped develop the college, its facilities, programs, and most importantly, the regiment of young men and women entrusted to his care. One of those midshipmen stated many years later, “I didn’t understand at the time I was a student that what he was trying to do was develop in me a sense of personal responsibility, to enable me to become a responsible ship’s officer, and ultimately a responsible husband and father. He helped make me a better man and today I look fondly back at my time at the Academy with Captain Brennan.”
Bill retired from the Academy in 1982, and he and Ethel moved to Falmouth, where he began his third career – giving back in service to others. For more than 20 years, he volunteered his time to several organizations in Southern Maine, including the OpSail Maine 2000 event, the Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Maine Medical Center, and his church.
Bill is predeceased by his wife, Ethel in 2020; and is survived by his four children, Bill and wife, Heather, of Castine, Maryann Russell of Scarborough, Katy and husband, Bob Hoffmann, of Yarmouth, Michael Brennan and wife, Sarah Speare, of Falmouth; 15 grandchildren and their spouses, and 19 great-grandchildren.
The family would like to express sincere appreciation for the love and care provided by Comfort Keepers, Northern Light Hospice, and the staff at Ocean View Legacy. Relatives and friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated at the Parish of the Holy Eucharist Holy Martyrs Catholic Church in Falmouth at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, October 11, 2022 followed by a reception at the church. A private interment with Military Honors will follow the reception. It is the family’s wish that donations be sent in memory of Bill to the Captain William F. Brennan Scholarship at the Maine Maritime Academy, 1 Pleasant Street, Castine, Maine 04420. To send a tribute in Bill’s memory please visit jonesrichandbarnes.com. Arrangements are under the care and direction of Jones, Rich & Barnes Funeral Home, 199 Woodford, Portland.