Michael Brennan, homeless writer-entrepreneur, dead at 38 FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 15 Mar 1999 08:51:38 -0800 (PST)

Michael Brennan I remember as a bright and energetic young man.  In the
early 1990s, he employed his homeless peers making and selling Holiday
wreaths in Cambridge, MA.  For the Wreath Project's initial year (1991?),
the homeless-managed nonprofit Bread & Jams was his "fiscl conduit", so
that the venture could get grants.

He died of a heart attack in Portland, OR on February 26th.  Here in
Greater Boston, many of us in the homeless community will miss our brother.

FWD  The Oregonian - Saturday March 13, 1999


He was an entrepreneur and a self-taught free-lancer whose work
appeared in national and Portland-area publications

Saturday March 13, 1999

By Osker Spicer of The Oregonian staff

Several local memorial services and a funeral in Groton, Conn., have
been held for Michael Brennan, a free-lance writer, grass-roots
entrepreneur and volunteer who died Feb. 26, 1999, of a heart attack in
Portland at age 38.

Colleagues, friends and family members attended a memorial service
Tuesday at Northeast Portland-based Project Quest, where Mr. Brennan
was a volunteer for the program, which helps people with illnesses such
as AIDS and cancer.

Later Tuesday, friends and admirers of Mr. Brennan held another
memorial service. Earlier this month, a Mass of Christian burial and
interment took place in Groton.

Mr. Brennan, a heroin addict who was often homeless, spent most of his
adult life as an independent writer in New London, Conn. Boston and
Cambridge, Mass. and, since 1993, in Portland. His work appeared in
several local and national publications, including Newsweek.

Mr. Brennan used his own money to establish the Wreath Project in
Portland, a self-help work project that recruited ex-offenders and
homeless and mentally ill people to make and sell holiday wreaths.

Mr. Brennan was born March 28, 1960, in New London. He graduated
from St. Bernard High School in Montville, Conn., in 1978.

He began his writing career while jailed in New London on a
heroin-possession charge. Later, after moving to Boston, he decided to
pursue writing full time. "Basically," he once told The Oregonian, "I was
self-taught at the library, reading books about how to be a free-lance

Mr. Brennan recalled that at night he slept on the ground in a cemetery
across from Harvard University. In the morning, he crossed the street and
"went to Harvard."

"It's funny," he said. "I say I went to Harvard to learn writing. Actually,
I was able to informally use their computers. I asked if it would be OK,
and they said yes. It was great, because I don't think editors would have
been too keen on longhand submissions."

In 1996, Mr. Brennan was among five writers from the West to be
awarded a PEN American work-in-progress grant for a book of essays.
He also had been a part-time instructor, at Connexus: The Writer's
School, on the techniques and strategies of writing.

Survivors include his parents, Jim and Joyce of Groton; sisters, Tricia of
Jamaica Plain, Mass., Tara V. Emsley of Taunton, Mass., and Kate R. of
San Francisco; and brothers, James F. Brennan III of Pomfret Center,
Conn., Timothy A. of Los Angeles and Stephen C. of Arlington, Va.

The family suggests remembrances to Project Quest.


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