With deepest sorrow, we regret to inform you that Laurence Joseph Brennan, 49, our most beloved son, brother, uncle, family member, and friend passed away unexpectedly on Sunday, August 8.
Those who knew Larry lost a very bright light in their lives.
In the first 18 years of his life, people knew Larry as a fun-loving, popular, 6-foot-4-inch athlete with a huge love of cars, brand-name clothes, and Boston sports teams. He was a football and tennis player, who had an exciting future ahead as a student of hotel management.
Those who knew Larry in the last 30 years of his life knew him as a living and breathing example of a life of resilience, strength, hope, and purpose.
On March 19, 1991, Larry, a recent graduate of Wakefield High School in Wakefield, MA, was in the Bahamas with friends on spring break as a freshman at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. As Larry wouldn’t want to leave out of his story, he had too much to drink that day, partying with his friends at a local beach. He misjudged the depth as he dove into the ocean, and he damaged his spinal cord at the C 5-6 level, leaving him a quadriplegic. As Larry once said to a reporter and educator later about the impact of his injury on his life, “Now, I can’t walk, but this is not so important to me anymore. I care most about my relationships with friends and family, staying active and having fun.”
Following his accident, Larry became a leader and activist. He founded his own non-profit organization, Discovering Disabilities, which developed educational and public service programs dedicated to teaching young individuals about disabilities. He held the positions of President, Vice President, and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Greater Boston Chapter of the United Spinal Association. There, among other things, he served as a peer mentor, providing support and encouragement to newly injured individuals with spinal cord injuries. He created the chapter’s spinal cord injury awareness and prevention programs, speaking in collaboration with physical and occupational therapists to students from elementary to postgraduate schools to educate them about life with a spinal cord injury.
Larry also served on the Town of Wakefield, MA’s Commission on Disability Issues, reviewing and advising on town building plans for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, including the renovation of Wakefield’s main Post Office, Town Hall, and Library. He also advised on ADA issues in the rebuilding of the Boston’s TD Garden, where his dear Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins play.
Larry also continued his love of athletics. He was a founding member of East Boston’s Piers Park Sailing Center Adaptive Sailing Committee, after being the center’s first disabled sailor. In collaboration with his father, he created the first, all-inclusive Adaptive Sailing Program to enable individuals of all ages with disabilities to participate to maximum potential. The program continues today as a nationally recognized non-profit sailing program, which has served over one thousand people with disabilities.
Larry was also a member of the Boston Pit Bulls (now the Northeast Passage Wildcats, Northern New England’s only competitive quad rugby team). He was also an adaptive skier and an avid photographer. More recently, he loved to ride his adaptive mountain bike through the beautiful Mt. Diablo State Park and town of Clayton, CA, where he moved to be closer to his family.
The faith that Larry had in his ability to continue his athletic career after his injury was cultivated during his time at Newport, RI’s Shake-a-Leg, which is a global community for people with disabilities, their families, and members of all ages to have fun, be inspired, develop friendships, and launch dreams.
Larry finished college at UMass Boston six years after his injury and went on to become a dedicated and proven professional in non-profit and for-profit environments, with expertise in development, marketing and communications, and diversity and inclusion. He served in several leadership positions for the development arm of the Massachusetts General Hospital and planned and analyzed media activity at one of the nation’s best advertising agencies.
Larry will be missed deeply and every day by his mother and father, Margaret and Robert Brennan; his sister and brother-in-law, Katy and Jeff Daley; his many family members and great friends. He will continue to be the best role model to his loving nephews, James (Jed) and Kurt Daley, who will continue to happily spoil Larry’s much-loved service dog, Apple.
Larry was a fixture, walking with his dear Apple, a NEADS ADA service dog, around the streets of Boston, MA and in the hills of Clayton, CA. While most people may wave at passersby, Larry was one who would always stop and chat with people as he passed, which allowed him to make friends wherever he went. His sister jokingly called him the mayor of the West End of Boston and more recently of Clayton, CA because you couldn’t walk with Larry for more than 10 steps without him stopping to say hi to an old friend or to make a new one.
The Brennan family wishes to thank the Town of Wakefield, MA, the City of Clayton, CA, St. Joseph Catholic Church of Wakefield, Wakefield’s Knights of Columbus, the Wakefield High School Class of 1990, The Boston Bruins, Shake-A-Leg, Neads ADA Assistant Dogs, and so many other people and families for their support after Larry’s injury and all of the new friends whose support has sustained us throughout the years, particularly the Daley, Kuckert, Magnan and Samra families and Bernard Perella for all their love and support. Larry was a man of deep Catholic faith, and the Brennan family is comforted to know Larry walked right into God’s arms and was greeted in heaven by his beloved neighbor and friend Dorothy Stokes, his family and friends, and his previous service dog, Emmie, who passed before him.
The Brennan family will hold two services for Larry. A visitation for relatives and friends will be held at the McDonald Funeral Home, 19 Yale Ave., Wakefield, MA on Thursday, August 19 from 4-7 p.m. His funeral mass will be celebrated at St. Joseph Church, 173 Albion St., Wakefield, MA on Friday, August 20 at 10 a.m. A memorial mass will be held at 12 p.m. on September 4 at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church, 5562 Clayton Rd in Concord, CA. There will be a private burial in Rhode Island.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Greater Boston Chapter of the United Spinal Association, NEADS ADA Assistant Dogs, or Piers Park Sailing Center in Larry’s name.