James J. Brennan, a South Philly Two-Streeter born and raised, a Mummer, a devoted traveler and Civil War buff, died Friday of complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 67 and lived in South Philadelphia.
Jim Brennan was all about family - a husband, father and grandfather who would do anything for his wife, children and grandchildren.
"He was the love of my life," his wife said.
"The sun really did rise and set in my father's eyes," said his daughter, Jennifer Brennan Matteo. "He was my hero, my first love."
Jim Brennan was born in South Philadelphia to Francis and Mary Brennan. He attended Sacred Heart Parochial School and graduated from what was then Bishop Neumann High School, now St. John Neumann High.
He went to work at the Inquirer right after high school, starting in ad production and working his way up to outside sales. Among his clients were colleges and universities. He put together the paper's Education Guide in 2001.
He retired later that year.
Jim and Jackie met in 1973 when both worked in the newspaper's advertising department. They were married in 1981. Jackie had three children from a previous marriage, and Jim adopted them.
"I felt that I was handpicked," Jennifer said. "I feel that he chose me. I was luckier than most children because my Daddy chose me to be his own. I was Daddy's little girl through and through."
Jennifer was trying last night to write her father's eulogy, a tough job because she had so much to say about him and wanted to make sure others understood how she felt.
"He was my heart and soul," she said. "This man gave me a beautiful life - and he didn't have to do any of it."
Jim and his wife went to Las Vegas a number of times, where Jim liked to test his luck and skill at the blackjack table.
They also took a number of cruises, including to the Caribbean, and once to Alaska. They also visited Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, scene of the Allied invasion in World War II. He had uncles who fought in the war.
As a Mummer, Jim marched with the Shooting Stars fancy brigade for about 20 years.
As a Civil War buff, Jim and his wife visited Gettysburg several times for re-enactments of that crucial battle. He also liked to read histories of the war.
In his retirement, Jim enjoyed working out and doing aerobics at a gym.
Longtime friend Jim Smith, a retired Daily News reporter, went to school with Jim Brennan and played baseball with him in rec leagues at 4th and Shunk streets.
"He was a pretty good third baseman, base runner and hitter," Smith said.
The Brennans had a lakeside home in Bear Creek, Pa., near Jim Thorpe, in the Pocono Mountains, where Jim loved to be with his kids and grandkids, and ski at the local resorts.
"He skied the nearby slopes into his 60s," Smith said "He was looking forward to skiing for free when he turned 70."
"He was quick with a smile," Smith said, "a sharp dresser, and a great conversationalist who made people feel at ease, attributes that I'm sure helped in his career and forged many friendships."
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by two sons, James J. Brennan Jr. and Steven Brennan; a sister, Frances Billups; two brothers, Joseph and Michael Brennan, and six grandchildren. He was predeceased by another brother, Roger Brennan.
Services: Funeral Mass 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Epiphany of Our Lord Church, 11th and Jackson streets. Friends may call at 7 p.m. tomorrow and at 8 a.m. Wednesday at the Monti-Rago Funeral Home, 2533 S. Broad St. Burial will be in Ss. Peter and Paul Cemetery, Marple.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, 399 Market St., Suite 102, Philadelphia 19106.