1937 - 2023
Leonard Andrew (“Drew”) Brennan, Jr. MD (1937-2023) moved on from this life to do more important work after losing a battle with Congestive Heart Failure on August 2, 2023. Drew was married to his college sweetheart, Barbara Bittorf Brennan for 62 years. Drew was father to four children: Mary Sheehan, Ann Brennan, Leonard A. Brennan III (“Drew”), and Megan Wedl. Drew delighted in the achievements and journeys of his 8 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. Drew leaves behind his sister Eden Lysaught (Valparaiso, IN) but joins his brother John Scott Brennan (1931-2011) in the afterlife. Drew also leaves behind the beloved relationships he developed with cousins in Salt Lake City and Portland.
Drew was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1937 to Leonard A. Brennan (Salt Lake City, UT) and Evelyn Scott Brennan (Halifax, Nova Scotia). Confined to bed for two years as a child with Scarlet Fever, Drew later attended Judge Memorial High School. As an adolescent he played offensive end on the high school football team — later Drew played collegiate tennis and threw the javelin. He was among the first to ride Brighton Ski Resort’s Mount Millicent ski lift, as his father and uncles helped to build the resort’s first chairlift. The New York Times wrote a feature article about the life his family lived in those years based seasonally out of the Austrian-styled A-Frame at the base of the mountain. In his junior year of high school Drew moved to Lake Oswego, Oregon with his parents and his sister. Ultimately, Drew would graduate from Campion High School, a private boarding school in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Inspired as a teen by the dreams of his mother, Drew’s pursuit of a career in medicine began in high school. As an undergraduate at Wabash College (Indiana), he was introduced at a dance to Barbie Bittorf, a student at nearby St. Mary’s of the Woods. Two years her senior, he courted Barb while studying medicine at St. Louis University and for a time made the 170-mile trip to St. Mary of the Woods in his VW Bug. Barb and Drew married in 1961, had 3 children and shortly after completing his residency at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Drew was drafted into the United States Army at the age of 29. Drew served in Vietnam as a medic for one year, quietly earning the Bronze Star for heroism while stationed in Chu Lai.
Rejoining his family, Drew pursued a 2-year Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship in Renal physiology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In 1970, Drew and Barb moved into their “Squirrel Hollow” in Rochester with their four children, and Drew’s 25-year career in Nephrology as a Mayo Clinic physician began. As a physician, Drew was known for his warmth and generosity. Drew assisted as a faculty at Mayo Medical School, participated in scholarly writing early in his career, but the bulk of his contributions were found in work as a consulting physician. With an enduring humility and sharp mind, he enjoyed the privilege of caring for patients from across the world. In 1979, while on a century bike-ride, Drew spotted “Nether Wallop” and convinced Barb to move the family out to the bucolic countryside of South-Eastern Minnesota, where Drew connected in his free time with his Irish heritage, raising sheep, caring for horses, share-cropping hay fields and walking and skiing in the nearby woods. In 1986 Drew and Barb sold the Ford tractor, bevy of snow shovels, and down parkas and moved to Atlantic Beach, Florida where they lived for 28 years at Ocean Walk and Drew joined the “Dirty 30” and helped to open the doors of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville.
Drew will forever be remembered for the passion with which he lived his life, and the breadth of interests he pursued and sought to master. Large-format photography, languages, tennis, golf, backpacking, long-walks, all forms of skiing and snowboarding, windsurfing, and paddling filled his days on this Earth. Beginning in the early 2000’s Drew and Barb discovered meditation and became a part of the World Community of Christian Meditation and together were early supporters of the Neptune Beach meditation center. He volunteered with school children in Atlantic Beach, helping children learn how to read. Drew also helped to make this world a better place by spending countless hours helping himself and others to find and hold onto sobriety. The manner in which Drew embraced AA fellowship and allowed himself to be changed by working a highly disciplined program was something to behold. He found immense meaning in supporting countless people in their journey toward wholeness.
One of Drew’s numerous classrooms was the Camino de Santiago. “Papa”, as he was known by his grandchildren, cleverly cloaked his mentorship in the form of a challenging, month-long, 500-mile pilgrimage in Spain—the Way of Saint James. Going forward, generations of his family will tell the story of how this man impacted the moral development of his grandchildren while walking across Spain.
With the devoted and constant care of his soulmate Barb, Drew navigated the last years of life with Alzheimer’s Disease. His light-heartedness, the joy found connecting with others, ongoing efforts to serve others, and his gratitude for his life on earth was an essential part of his being. His warmth, his genuine curiosity, and charm will be missed by many.
A Catholic funeral service will take place Friday, August 11, 2023 at 10 am, St. John the Baptist Church, Atlantic Beach, Florida.
Please consider making a memorial-contribution on Drew’s behalf to the American Alzheimer Foundation at https://act.alz.org