Obituary of Roy Brennan
Born on July 7, 1951 in New Orleans, LA, Roy died peacefully at home in Puyallup, WA on November 7, 2019 surrounded by the love of his family. He leaves behind his wife Carolyn and his children Jennifer and Jeff (Rhianon). The oldest of 7 children, Roy was predeceased by his mother Joel Bergeron Brennan and his dad Mike Brennan (Merle). Roy was a graduate of Jesuit High School class of ’69 and of UNO School of Engineering. He worked for Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical for 27 years before enjoying an early retirement that allowed him to travel with his wife and dog in his beloved “big toy” trailer seeking out great wine and visiting with great friends. Funeral services will be held at 11AM on Saturday, November 16th at All Saints Church, 503 3rd Street SW, Puyallup, WA 98371, with a reception following. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to All Saints Community Services, Jesuit High School (Class of 1969 Scholarship), or to Virginia Mason's Pancreaticobiliary Cancer Fund via the Virginia Mason Foundation, PO Box 1930, D1-MF, Seattle, WA 98111.
ROY MICHAEL BRENNAN, JULY 7TH 1951 was his mantra in the hospital, as they asked ad nauseum his name and birth date. He would really make them wait for it!
Roy and Carolyn, the love of his life, were married for 43 years. They were high school sweethearts and enjoyed 51 years of friendship. When Roy was in the hospital and sharing “important” information, he explained about a box of love letters hidden in his shop. Carolyn knew nothing about this box at the time. Her He-Man who could do it all still had surprises for her.
There have been many blessings on this journey.
The blessings of Family:
One of the first blessings of this journey is the teamwork of his two loving children. It gave him peace of mind. He is so proud of them for many reasons. Jennifer, a determined, capable, highly intelligent, professional woman, who Roy envisions can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to. Jeff is an exceptional man who is a good leader, highly capable, and a successful professional, plant manager, who has followed in his father’s footsteps, as an engineer, and exceeded them. Both Jenn and Jeff have been an awesome support for Roy and Carolyn on this journey. They are loving, caring, compassionate people. Roy was always so impressed with ALL that they did on this journey. Details need not be given, just know that they did it alllll! Jennifer actually thanked her mom and dad for being included in the journey and Jeff was right there also. She would take care of the dogs, while her parents were up in Seattle for treatments and have dinner cooked by the time they got home. Jeff would come up at a moment’s notice from Portland, when he was needed. Often coming up on the weekend to help with things at the house, driving back to Portland on Sunday and then driving back up on Monday night to be able to help when treatments or appointments were scheduled on a Tuesday. They have been so awesome through all of this. Thanks also go to their employers for being so very gracious and understanding in giving them time off to be with Roy through this all.
Roy was the oldest of 7 children, Robert, Don, Kim, Kelley, Will, and Michael. There are 17 years between Michael, the youngest, and Roy. The boys in Roy’s family were all sailors. Roy’s father designed and produced Easterly sailboats in New Orleans. Roy however enjoyed being the land lover, who was active on Jesuit’s varsity basketball team and Airline Park’s baseball teams throughout elementary and high school years. Roy’s wonderful sister, Kim, the 4th in the line of the 7 siblings, came out to see Roy in July, and to basically support both Roy and Carolyn while Jenn, Jeff and Rhianon were in Europe. Roy truly believed that she came out to check out Virginia Mason and Dr. Picozzi to make sure they were taking the proper care of her big brother. You see, Roy would proudly tell everyone, whenever he mentioned Kim’s name that she is a 35-year oncology nurse at Oschner Hospital in New Orleans, and that she is the head nurse that keeps everything running. In October, when Roy went into the hospital for a week, he decided that he would no longer receive treatment. Roy knew then that he was entering his end days. When Kim received the message, she came out again. She was on a cruise in the Caribbean when Roy decided to go home and begin hospice. Kim flew from Miami, to New Orleans, to Seattle without even going home to repack. She stayed with Roy for several days before needing to return to New Orleans. She is a special sister, an angel and a blessing.
Carolyn’s sister, Cathy, and brother-in-law, Jim, dropped everything in their active lives to come and be with Roy and Carolyn. Cathy ran the household, so that Jenn, Jeff and Carolyn could attend to Roy both at the hospital and when Roy came home. She was there for the needed hugs, prayers and support, when there just weren’t words for the moment.
Jim, an awesome woodworker, and the person who made Roy’s beautiful box for his ashes, took on a honey-do list that had accumulated items from the 6 months that Roy had been ill and then some. Jim is a patient and kind man. With the support of Cathy and Jim also came prayers and support from their friends in Washougal and beyond.
The Brennans and Boulands adopted each other as neighborhood friends as soon as they met, back in 1983. This soon grew to be an extended family relationship. Pat and Ray Bouland and their daughters, Jenni and Susie, were there for Roy. Susie, who lives in the area, had been at the hospital several times to visit with Roy. Pat and Ray flew in from Florida as soon as they found out about Roy’s decision to discontinue treatment. They came to the house everyday to be with him. Jenni even flew from Florida for 2 days to be with Roy—this is a 7-hour flight one way. It meant a lot to Roy to be able to see these special friends, who filled the house with love and laughter.
A blessing of friends!
Love is wanting the best for another person and Roy was surrounded by love.
Another special blessing on this journey was the love and care of friends and faith community. From prayers, cards in the mail, phone calls, visits from friends and even a surprise visit from some of the Columbiettes’ Bunco Babes, who had to commandeer a wheelchair to carry all of the goodies of food and drinks with which they came ladened. They prayed with Roy and even sang around his hospital bed at Virginia Mason. Roy was overwhelmed by the depths of love which surrounded him through this wonderful blessing of friends.
Roy was very attached to his high school alma mater, Jesuit, in New Orleans. When asked why, he replied that it was because of the values he learned there and lived by all his life. He was part of a very special group of men, the Class of ’69, who have stayed close for 50 years. One of his classmates shared a memory of their first day in 8th grade at Jesuit. This particular person was feeling a little intimidated and lost with the whole process of the first day. He remembers Roy introducing himself to him and that they got through that first day together. Another wrote that “Roy will be missed by those of us who were lucky enough to know him.” Roy wanted so badly to go back to New Orleans in September for the School’s celebration honoring the 50-year graduates, but his health and the chemo treatments did not allow it. A wonderful classmate of Roy’s and a grammar school friend of Carolyn’s picked up Roy’s diploma for him and mailed it to Roy along with a care package including past Blue Jay magazines and memorabilia. Roy enjoyed reading every one of them and walking down memory lane. Kim came to the rescue again! Since Roy couldn’t be at the 50 Year Graduate celebration, Kim and her daughter Tiffany wore “Jesuit blue” outfits and went to the Celebration Mass for Roy. Tiffany videoed the ceremony and sent it to Roy. What a wonderful gift!
Roy was grateful for the care he received at Virginia Mason from his medical Angels. What a blessing, when Roy was told that Dr. Vincent Picozzi was the only doctor to see for pancreatic cancer. Roy had such confidence in him! Dr. Picozzi was the face of hope for us. He is a Commander in Chief, who mounts the charge against this disease. Throughout his treatment, Dr. Picozzi was always concerned about what Roy wanted and what was best for him. Quality of life!
The blessing of work!
Roy worked a very successful 27-year career with Kaiser Aluminum in multiple locations. In New Orleans, Roy started his career right out of college working as a pot room engineer. He was also a Junior Achievement leader through Kaiser’s community involvement, working after hours with high school students in Chalmette, Louisiana, teaching them teamwork and business skills.
In Oakland, California, Roy was no longer working in a plant, but wore a suit to work every day as he moved into the corporate planning of things. In Tacoma, he enjoyed his assignment as a United Way loaned executive along with his job working in a plant again. He often used the idea of a picture is worth a thousand words by taking pictures of various pot situations and equipment to help with visual communications for those not working in the pot rooms. He was next given the job of Network Administrator. He was smart with computers and loved his work at the Tacoma plant with getting the computers set up, functioning and educating others on use of the computers. He even turned this love of computers into a side business for a while with people outside of Kaiser.
He is very grateful to Kaiser for his opportunity to retire early. This early retirement allowed Roy to find another blessing in his life, a dream retirement job building cabinets at Elk Plain Woodworks. Along the way, this led to new kitchens for Carolyn, Jenn, and Jeff. Jeff’s kitchen was one of the goals on Roy’s list after his diagnosis. It was a heart-breaking moment when Roy had to resign from Elk Plain Woodworks because he was no longer able to work. Eric Bennet was wonderful in allowing Roy to take over the shop again to build most of the cabinets for Jeff’s kitchen. When Roy was no longer able to do the work himself, he was able to instruct and supervise the building of the cabinets by Jenn and Jeff. There’s that awesome teamwork again! His last visit to Portland was to supervise the installation of Jeff’s new cabinets, a well thought out plan! They look awesome!
The blessing of retirement!
The BIG TOY! This was Roy’s name for the 35-foot trailer that he and Carolyn finally upgraded to. It didn’t take Carolyn long to know that tenting was not her desired camping experience. So the family, thanks to a bonus from Kaiser, upgraded to a pop-up tent trailer. There were many wonderful adventures in the pop-up, including the one that launched the search for a bigger trailer. One fateful trip to Hood River to do some wining ended up being a weekend of endless rain. The couple in the nice, warm, totally dry trailer next door got Carolyn thinking that there is more to this adventure—how about glamping! Roy agreed and the search ensued for just the right trailer that could accommodate the 5 adults and 4 dogs—2 labs and 2 springers – for family trips.
Roy was so in his element in the RV parks. He loved meeting new people and especially helping people new to their trailers to get them set up. He would have been a great campground host. There is a particularly fun story about Leavenworth. A guy with a new 5th wheel trailer didn’t quite get it hooked up correctly and as he tried to pull away to leave, the trailer fell off the truck bed hitch and landed directly on the truck. Roy was there immediately to help. Welllll, a week or two later, Roy, Carolyn, and Jenn are now camping in Garibaldi, Oregon. Jeff and Rhianon had driven over from Portland for supper. They were eating dinner with a beautiful view of the sunset over the ocean. It’s beginning to get dark when a big rig tries to back into the spot next to them. Roy jumps up from the dinner table to go help guide “the new guy” into the spot. He gets the “the new guy” all set up and notices that “the new guy” is pulling a 5th wheel, so Roy proceeds to tell “the new guy” about his recent experience with the guy in Leavenworth. Well you guessed it – it’s the same guy from Leavenworth. This time the guy didn’t unhitch his rig from his truck!
There were so very many adventures most of them with winery visits as a destination—Leavenworth, Walla Walla, Prosser, Hood River, Salem, and the respites at the ocean; whether it was in Lincoln City, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oregon or the Long Beach/Ilwaco area in Washington. There were a few cross-country trips as well. His greatest joy was the trip we made cross-country through Yellowstone National Park for a 4th of July with our friends in the Poconos, Jeff and Cheryl Platt. Jeff, an electrical engineer and a man of many talents, actually created a parking spot on his property for the Big Toy with electrical hook-ups and a magnificent view of the lake. It was fantastic fun and such a blessing of good friends!
The blessing of Roy!
Roy was generous to family and friends in need.
One of Jeff’s strongest memories of Roy is witnessing him give a new wallet to a friend one Christmas. Jeff noticed how grateful the friend was, but was confused because “it was just a wallet.” Well, years later Jeff finally asked his father about this memory and why the friend was so grateful for the wallet. Roy explained that the friend had been injured off the job and was unable to work and had fallen on hard times. He had incurred large medical bills and had a mortgage to pay or risk losing his home and he had a wife and children to take care of. It wasn’t just a new wallet, but a new wallet that contained money to help the family get back on their feet. Jeff shared that this example inspired him to be generous with the gifts he has been given.
Storytelling: Roy loved to tell a good story and took particular joy in exaggerating the details with each telling. One story his friends and family will always remember him for is the Cajun Night Before Christmas. If you thought Roy might have still retained a slight accent after being gone from New Orleans for forty-one years, you would swear he was a full Cajun after one page of the book!
Roy never lost his sense of humor! Always the unexpected clever comment. He joked with the nurses when they asked if they could get anything for him by replying “a winning lottery ticket and he would split it with them.” On his last day, the lovely lady from hospice came to bathe Roy. He was in such pain, it hurt to move, and Roy wasn’t talking very much at all that day; it was mostly head nods. Jenn, Jeff and Carolyn were assisting Christie as she did her job and tried to carefully turn Roy to change the sheets on Roy’s bed, while bathing him. She would stop often to let him relax from the pain. At one point she said to him, “Okay Roy, we are going to let you rest and give you a break.” At this point Roy croaked out, “Kit Kat.” Carolyn started laughing and Christie asked what he had said. Carolyn repeated Roy’s words and explained his reference—"break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!” He was the clever one!
It is said that the last gift God gives us, on this earth, is death.
Roy would tell you that he was ready. Our Lord had given him a good life and he had no regrets. He was grateful for the life God had given him. Roy did not question “why me”. He accepted the journey that God had sent him on with his cancer diagnosis, knowing that the Lord had a plan for him. He was just so ready at the end to jump into Jesus’ embrace and be done with this rocky cancer journey. We know Roy regretted leaving his family, but he knew from the onset of the diagnosis that his cancer could only be detained and not cured.
Death WAS our Lord’s last gift for Roy. He is no longer in pain and we believe that Roy has made that leap of faith and is resting joyfully in Jesus’ arms.
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