Obituary of Mark J. Brennan
Mark Brennan’s remarkable life began in Dublin, Ireland on October 20, 1939. The 9th of 12 children, Mark’s family were merchants and grocers from the nearby seaside village of Bray, County Wicklow. Comfortable and established, life for the Brennan family was idyllic until the misfortunate death of Mark’s father before he turned three. Without the family patriarch, things were soon untenable and the family were scattered.
Despite it all, Mark had a childhood full of mischievousness and adventure. A fine athlete, Mark hurled, boxed and swam for his local clubs. Summers at his grandfather’s farm in Leitrim, rowing out to camp on Ireland’s Eye, as well as holiday stays in Wicklow, all figured prominently in Mark’s childhood. His assistance in the capture of “The Phantom,” a local celebrity thief, made the papers when Mark spotted the kleptomaniac hiding out in a riverbed. Mark brought back the Guards. Frozen and starving from his attempted evasion, the confrontation with the thief had the opposite effect on Mark. Instead of thinking himself the hero, Mark pitied the poor fellow, feeling guilty for arranging the impending punishment coming his way by way of the Guards. Mark always cheered the underdog and that likely started here.
Despite a happy enough childhood, prospects were not great in Ireland at the end of the ‘50s and Mark was encouraged to leave for England where opportunities were more plentiful. And so, with a few pounds pressed into his hands by an uncle, Mark set sail across the sea. Once in London, Mark quickly made friends, something that came easily, and settled in. Be it with the Irish diaspora or the characters he befriended in the East End. Mark fit into London like a glove on the hand. Before long he was rubbing shoulders with the famous, infamous and even the notorious! Working jobs of all descriptions, from selling vacuums in Dagenham, or as a cast member on My Fair Lady in the West End, Mark embraced the big city. At night the Jazz clubs in SOHO were among Mark’s favourite haunts. The dances were another popular spot and it was at one of these where Mark took a shine to a tall, sophisticated brunette. Taking on a bet with a friend who was certain Mark was punching way above his weight, Mark bet the pal he could get her to go out with him. That girl, just home from boarding school, was Greta Gerber. Before long, her father was toasting their engagement at The Grosvenor House, Park Lane! Mark and Greta settled in South Kensington and soon welcomed their son, Hugh and daughter, Shauna.
As the swinging sixties came to an end, prospects in England were few and far between and so, like many others, they chose to immigrate. Choosing Canada, Mark arrived to the wintry wonderland, but things did not move as smoothly as hoped. A first attempt was aborted, but some months later Mark travelled back on his own to give it a go, finding work and to send for Greta and the kids. Just about out of options, Mark’s brother spotted an ad for car sales which promised, amongst other things, the use of a company car. Mark got the job and life would change. Soon enough Mark had money to send for his family, and shortly thereafter he bought his first house, settling in the Agincourt area of Scarborough and then welcomed a third child, his daughter, Siobhan!
In the 1980’s, Mark made the bold decision to sell his home and cash out everything else. With the proceeds he partnered to buy his first dealership, a Chrysler dealership in Mississauga. The move set up a magical Third Act in Mark’s life which saw him take ownership of two more dealerships - Dixie Chrysler and, later, Brennan Pontiac Buick.
Mark was also no stranger to charitable endeavours, serving most notably as a national director of the Ireland Fund of Canada. He also served on the Board of Directors of the Toronto Automobile Dealers Association and as President of the Canadian International Auto Show.
Splitting his time between his homes in Toronto and Naples, Florida, Mark always found a way to get back to his native Ireland, maintaining membership in his beloved Royal Dublin Golf Club until the end. A great traveller, with Greta at his side, they were fearless on their journeys which included - a river cruise down the Amazon and an epic Around the World trip that took five months and visited as many continents.
Mark loved life, always backed the underdog and was unfailingly optimistic. When diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and given 4 months, he played his odds again. Never one to leave the party early he brazenly stayed on for 7 years. Above all, Mark loved his family - family really were everything to him. Along with his wife of 60 years, Greta and their children, Hugh (Catherine), Shauna (Langley), Siobhan (Jeffrey), Mark reserved the most pride for his 9 grandchildren and great-grandson.
Mark leaves behind a life well lived, full of laughs and wonderful memories, and a world better off for his being a part of it. A true original - we shall not see the likes of him again.
The family will receive friends at the Humphrey Funeral Home A.W. Miles – Newbigging Chapel, 1403 Bayview Avenue (south of Davisville) from 2:00 – 4:00 and 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. Thursday, August 25. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, August 26 in Blessed Sacrament Church, 24 Cheritan Drive, Toronto (one block south of Lawrence).
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to Canada Ireland Foundation at http://www.canadairelandfoundation.com/tribute-gift, a charity close to his heart. Condolences may be forwarded through www.humphreymiles.com.
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