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Richard P. Brennan, 94, executive for local banks, WWII veteran

Nov. 15, 1921 – Jan. 20, 2016

Lifetime Buffalo resident Richard P. Brennan may be best remembered for both his long banking career, as a top executive in two local banks, and his lifelong love of boating, starting when he built his first sailboat in his St. James Place backyard at age 17.

What many friends may not know is that Mr. Brennan, who died Wednesday at age 94 while in hospice care at Beechwood Nursing Facility, may have been the first person ever to lace up a pair of skates inside one of Buffalo’s now-departed treasures, Memorial Auditorium.

After graduating from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in 1939, Mr. Brennan worked in Curtiss-Wright aircraft’s drafting department and also helped maintain the proper refrigeration level at the Nichols School rink. So shortly after “the Aud” opened in October 1940 – with a rally for Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie – the Ice Follies came to town, and Mr. Brennan was asked to help lay the ice sheet there. An accomplished hockey player and skater, he always carried his leather skates with him, and he apparently took the first skate on the new ice sheet that he helped create.

An Ice Follies official, impressed with Mr. Brennan’s proficient backward crossovers and other skating moves, asked whether he was interested in joining the Ice Follies troupe. “Absolutely not,” his mother said, scotching that idea.

After high school, Mr. Brennan played left wing on the Buffalo Athletic Club’s amateur hockey team, and family members said he earned a scholarship to play hockey at Cornell. But World War II intervened, and he joined the U.S. Navy, serving from 1942 to 1946, including a stint in the war’s Pacific Theater, as a chief petty officer on the USS Belleau Wood. He spent 18 years with the Naval Reserves.

Mr. Brennan began his banking career as a teller at Marine Midland Trust Co. in 1947, rising to the rank of vice president before leaving Marine Midland in 1967 to become executive vice president at the Bank of Buffalo. He rose to president, CEO and chairman of that bank, before working on its merger with the Bank of New York, where he became regional chairman. Mr. Brennan retired in 1980, after a 33-year career in banking.

During that career, he graduated from the University of Buffalo’s American Institute of Banking and the Buffalo extension of Harvard Business School, before earning a degree from Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Banking in 1959. Mr. Brennan served as president of the Automobile Club of Western New York in 1969. He also held positions on various boards and organizations, including the United Way, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, Kenmore Mercy Hospital and the Erie Niagara Industrial Development Corp. He also was a longtime member of the Buffalo Yacht Club and the Buffalo Club.

Mr. Brennan was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, the former Isabel Yates, who died in 2009. Survivors include two sons, Philip Y. and Timothy Y.; one daughter, Marcia B. Mathias; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial Mass will be held at 10 a.m. March 19 in Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, 1035 Delaware Ave.