Whitestoners honor Brennan at funeral

Whitestoners honor Brennan at funeral
By Joe Anuta

Whitestone’s Gene Brennan received befitting honors at his funeral last month.

Bagpipers in full regalia blasted notes into the air and a cadre of NYPD officers carried the casket, wrapped in an American flag, out of St. Luke’s Church.

Brennan was a 20-year veteran of the NYPD, where he worked as a detective. He was also a longtime member of Community Board 7 and a linchpin in the operation of the Dwarf-Giraffe Athletic League.

“Gene was there for the right reasons,” said Jay Vigorito, president of the sports league, where hundreds of Whitestone youngsters play basketball, baseball and lacrosse. “He had the saying, ‘It’s for the kids.’”

And that saying, which became a catchphrase of Brennan’s, was displayed at the league’s gym, where friends and family went after the funeral to watch a slideshow of photos from Brennan’s life and to talk with each other about the man who held the community close to his heart.

“He convinced me to get on the board 17 years ago, and I haven’t left yet,” Jose Rodriguez, vice president of the league, said in an interview. “He’s been the backbone of DG for a long time.”

Brennan also advocated for the league with Queens politicians, securing grants that paid for upgrades to equipment and new programs.

But due to the weak economy, many of those grants and gifts began to dry up, according to Rodriguez.

To raise funds, the league began to have a charity golf tournament and, fittingly, that tournament will now be named after Brennan.

Brennan devoted a large portion of his time to making sure the children of the neighborhood, regardless of skill level, had a safe and encouraging place to play sports, according to Rodriguez.

But Brennan also made the neighborhood better for adults.

He joined CB 7 in 2004 and led there through his work with the athletic league, according to CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman.

“He was just a very, very sweet man,” she said.

Brennan, drawing from his decades of experience with the NYPD, sat on the board’s Public Safety Committee, according Bitterman.

He also attended meetings that might have relevance for Whitestone or for parks or athletic fields.

Earlier this year, Brennan retired from the board due to his battle with emphysema and spoke with TimesLedger Newspapers, where he praised the board.

“It’s a worthwhile organization. I think that the members are very, very enthused by what they do — for nothing, I might add. And I think they’re well-rounded representatives of the community,” he said.

Brennan left behind his wife Margaret; children Laurie, Eugene, Sean and Patrick; and grandchildren Kevin and Brianna. He also has two brothers named Jimmy and John.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.