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WWII veteran Michael Brennan has died at 89

Michael J. Brennan, a World War II veteran

Michael J. Brennan, a World War II veteran who fought at Iwo Jima, died Dec. 5, 2010. He was 89.

For years, Michael Brennan's World War II medals hung on a wall, first at his mother's home in Brooklyn, then at his own home in Patchogue.

But he never wanted to talk about them or his war memories, said his daughter, Regina Maresco.

"When we were little and we asked if he shot anyone, he'd say, 'It's not for you kids to talk about. We fought so you would not have to think about such things,' " she recalled.

Brennan, who died Sunday, nine days short of his 90th birthday, only talked of fighting at Iwo Jima in his later years, his daughter said. In 1991, when he had heart surgery, Brennan spoke in a medicine-induced haze from his hospital bed about what he saw.

"Horrific things," said Maresco, 51, of Poughkeepsie. "Men burning from flamethrowers and his friends dying on the beach."

That he kept those memories buried inside for so long, she said, did not surprise her. Brennan was a protective father, "the most loving, devoted person to everyone he was involved with."

Brennan, a Patchogue resident for more than 50 years, died at his home of heart illness.

He worked 30 years for Citibank, including as a loan officer and a Mineola branch manager, his daughter said.

He also was a longtime volunteer at St. Francis de Sales Church in Patchogue, where he served as an usher.

He and his wife, Patricia, who died in March of complications from Parkinson's disease, also delivered for Meals on Wheels for more than a decade, family members said.

Brennan was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism, his daughter said, for rescuing several of his fellow Marines after an amphibious vehicle they were riding in overturned in the waters off Saipan in July 1945.

Six or seven men were trapped on a coral reef, and Brennan swam each of them to safety, one at a time.

"One man washed back out to sea after he was rescued," Maresco said, "so my father had to swim back out and get him again."

Maresco said her father was in reasonably good shape until his wife of 61 years died. "He held her hand at the casket and cried like a baby," she said. "He was heartbroken."

In addition to his daughter, Brennan is survived by another daughter, Marybeth Gillespie of Lancaster, Pa.; son Michael Brennan Jr. of Patchogue; five grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

A funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Francis de Sales Church, followed by burial at Calverton National Cemetery.

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