Eileen Brennan, whose low, coarse timbre was a fixture of the stage and screen (silver and small) for over half a century, passed away in her Burbank, CA home on July 28. She was 80 years old.
Though she had been acting for over two decades prior, Brennan reached her widest acclaim in 1980’s Private Benjamin (and the 1981 CBS TV spin-off of the same name) as Capt. Doreen Lewis, Goldie Hawn’s tough Army trainer foil. For her part in the film, Brennan garnered an Academy Award nomination, and for the TV series won an Emmy for best supporting actress in a comedy, variety, or music series, and was nominated twice more. The series was cancelled in 1983, after Brennan was forced to leave the show after being struck by a car and critically wounded in Venice, CA. Following the accident, Brennan also began to struggle with an addiction to pain medication and alcohol, which she later beat.
Although she never regained her former dynamo comedienne status, Brennan continued to act in highly visible guest appearances on TV shows like Will and Grace, Newhart, and Thirtysomething, all of which earned her Emmy nominations. Most recently in film, she played William Shatner’s mother in 2005’s Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, despite being a year younger than him.
Born Verla Eileen Regina Brennen in Los Angeles in 1932, her first major role was on the stage as the lead in Little Mary Sunshine, a 1959 off-Broadway show that earned her an Obie Award. Her first major film role came in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 The Last Picture Show. In 1998, she was on Broadway again in Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan. She is survived by two sons, Patrick and Sam, her sister Kathleen, and two grandchildren.
John J. Gilligan
1921 – 2013
John Joyce Gilligan, the former governor of Ohio and father of the current Secretary for Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, died on August 26. He was 92.
Jack, who served as a gunner in the U.S. Navy in WWII (he was awarded a Silver Star for gallantry in action at Okinawa), was born on March 22, 1921 in Cincinnati. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and went on to teach English literature at Xavier University. He married Susan Fremont, with whom he had two daughters, Kathleen and Ellen, and two sons, Donald and John.
A passionate civil rights activist, Gilligan was approached in 1953 to run for Cincinnati City Council, which he did, and won. After serving for 10 years, in 1964 he was elected to Congress as a representative for Ohio’s 1st District, serving from January 3, 1965 – January 3, 1967. He narrowly lost his re-election bid to Robert Taft, Jr., when the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly redrew his district to favor Republicans. (Ironically, Jack’s grandmother had worked as a maid in the Taft household.)
Jack remained active in politics and won the election for the governorship of Ohio in 1970, defeating Republican Roger Cloud, serving from 1971 to 1975 and implementing reforms in education, tax, mental health and environmental concerns. After his time as governor, Gilligan led the U.S. Agency for International Development for two years, and then returned to Notre Dame to teach and lead the university’s institute for International Peace Studies. He went on to serve as a fellow of the John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics at Harvard, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and in 1999, at 78, he was elected to the board of Education of the Cincinnati Public Schools, a position he retired from in 2008.
Gilligan is survived by his wife and their four children. In 2002, when Kathleen was elected Governor of Kansas, they became the first-ever father and daughter to both serve as U.S. governors. In a recent interview with Irish America, Secretary Sebelius praised her father’s hard work and legacy: “He taught my siblings and me that public service was an important way to make a contribution to our communities and that it was important to have a strong moral code as a guidepost, even if our positions were unpopular.”
Judge Joseph M. McLaughlin
1933 – 2013
A former New York federal judge and dean of Fordham University Law School, Joseph M. McLaughlin died of pneumonia on August 8 in Queens, NY. He was 80. Judge McLaughlin was named dean at Fordham Law in 1971 and served for ten years. In 1981, he was appointed to the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York by President Reagan. Nine years later, President Bush appointed him to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Born on March 20, 1933 in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Joseph Michael McLaughlin was the youngest child and only son of Joseph and Mary Flanagan McLaughlin, emigrants from Co. Longford. He attended Brooklyn Preparatory School and graduated from Fordham College in 1954. He was drafted into the Army in 1955, only a year into law school, and served 2 years in the Corps of Engineers during the Korean War.
When he returned to Fordham, he became editor-in-chief of the Fordham Law Review and graduated at the top of his class in 1959. He joined the firm Cahill, Gordon and Reindel and returned to Fordham two years later to teach. During his ten years as dean, he expanded the faculty and hired some of the school’s first female law professors. McLaughlin wrote over 800 opinions he during his time on the bench. His other publications include Weinstein’s Evidence, and New York and Federal Rules of Evidence.
Joseph is survived by his wife, Frances; children Joseph, Matthew, Andrew, and Mary Jo; and 13 grandchildren. – M.M.