Katherine Frances (Hanlon) Brennan was born on August 10, 1932 in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Born to Frank and Catherine Hanlon, Katherine was the second of five children, a sister to Frank, Mary, Edward and Georgia. A source of great pride to Katherine, her father’s Hanlon family was well renowned and respected within the region, boasting a total of seven sons, each having received medical degrees. This impressive achievement caught the attention of Time magazine, which published a short story on the family in June 1940.
Also known as Kitty and Kit, Katherine grew up in Wilkes-Barre attending the local Catholic schools through high school. She talked with great fondness of her childhood memories, especially time spent at the family home on South Franklin Street. Over the years, she would laugh about her older brother’s pranks, convey the worry and anxiety felt by the family as her father commanded a MASH unit in World War 2, and describe day-to-day life attending Mass, running through town and visiting the river. Her childhood was happy, adventurous and active.
Katherine graduated from Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY and became a teacher. Taking advantage of continuing educational opportunities, she pursued her master’s degree, first at Fordham University and then at the University of Notre Dame, where she received an MA in Education. Taking classes exclusively in the summer months, Katherine spent 3 summers at Notre Dame, and developed a lifelong love of the university. She proudly and unapologetically passed this love to her children, prompting her youngest, Patrick, to enroll there for his bachelor’s degree.
In the early 1960’s, Katherine moved to Washington, D.C., to continue her teaching career. In 1964, she met Thomas Brennan at an event associated with their church. The two were soon married in Katherine’s hometown of Wilkes-Barre, PA. They purchased a one-story, ranch-style house in the new planned community in Bowie, MD, becoming the original owners of the house that remains the family home to this day. Over the next five years, children Anne (1965), Mary (1966), Gavin (1968) and Patrick (1970) were born. Though she gave up teaching to raise the family, Katherine remained active in the local community, especially within her parish of St. Pius X. Serving within the church became a central part of the Brennan household, filled with Catholic sacraments, hunger Masses, Seder meals, food kitchens and Christmas Eve services. Katherine actively lived her faith and shared that with her family. Life was simple and humble for the Brennans.
A walk around the Bowie home tells much of the story of Katherine’s life and priorities. Shelves are full of photographs of family, books and magazines (most National Geographic). The photos are a reminder of the great pride she felt in her family, especially her delight in her grandchildren and her remembrance of her parents and siblings. The reading materials and piano symbolize how much she prioritized education and culture. In addition to the photos and books, there is an unmistakable and obvious value placed on her Roman Catholic faith and the values that faith so deeply instilled in her.
Religious artifacts ranging from figurines, rosaries, and crucifixes to bibles, missalettes, and prayer books are prominent in each room of the house. Less obvious were the stacks of envelopes affiliated with charitable causes she supported, both with prayer and with monetary contributions.
Katherine had a lifelong love of travel. Her youth was spent going to New York, and broadened to states further west during her years in college and graduate school. Much of her travel involved visiting family members, including numerous trips to Wilkes-Barre, Bradenton, FL and Maplewood, NJ. In 1981, the Brennans moved to Cheltenham, England where Tom worked a three-year tour for NSA. The family took advantage of the proximity to Europe to visit most European countries. Additionally, many days and weekends were spent travelling the English countryside. Naturally, most city and country tours required stops at the majestic churches so prevalent in Europe, often to attend Mass.
Katherine’s energy and physical agility were impressive. She was quick and nimble on her feet, enjoying walks and occasionally playing catch with her grandson. It never really occurred to Katherine that age would place limitations on her activity. Even as she aged, she continued to use ladders and stools, wash windows, climb on countertops and even attempted to get on the roof of the house to clear the gutters (to the great consternation (and secret pride) of her family). From a young age, Katherine always seemed to be on the go, moving forward.
Katherine passed away at 2:40pm, July 16, in her own bed in her Bowie home. Married for 57 years, Tom predeceased Katherine in 2020. She is survived by her four children, Anne, Mary, Gavin and Patrick. She is also survived by two daughters-in-law (Valerie and Christy), nine grandchildren (Jennifer (s. John), Thomas, Conor, Liam, Finn, Katherine, Zoe, Cecilia, and Elizabeth), three great-grandchildren (Cameron, Riley and Kyrie), and numerous nephews, nieces and cousins.
In remembrance of Katherine, the family requests those who wish to express sympathy to consider making a donation to the following charity: