Obituary: John Brann

John N. Brann, age 95, of Batavia IL and Baileys Harbor WI, passed away on Friday, June 10, 2016 after a brief illness. He was born in Madison, WI on May 4, 1921, the son of John W. and Nina Brann.

John was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. He received his early education in the Madison schools, including attending high school at Wisconsin High, which was part of the University of Wisconsin. John’s high school activities ranged from playing the violin as concertmaster of the high school orchestra to being captain of the golf team and forward on the basketball team. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1942 in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, finishing first in his class of 65 students.

John spent the years during World War II employed by the Standard Oil Company (now Exxon Mobil) of New Jersey working as a process engineer at the Baton Rouge, Louisiana refinery. Early on he applied for and was granted a commission as Ensign in the US Navy with orders to report to Princeton University for radar training. Standard Oil appealed to his draft board that he was more valuable to the war effort enhancing the production of aviation gasoline and synthetic rubber, both critical items in the war. The draft board agreed with this appeal, and cancelled his commission in the Navy.

John returned to Madison and received a Masters of Science degree in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison in 1947. After graduation, he was then employed as a process engineer for the Marathon Corporation in the pulp and paper mill in Rothschild, Wisconsin (near Wausau) involving the development and production of saleable products from the spent sulfite liquor. John often stated that this was the most fun job of his career.

On March 5, 1949, he and Claire Gehrman were married, beginning a wonderful partnership that spanned 63 1/2 years, until her death in 2012.

In 1953, John was promoted to supervisor of the pulp and paper section of research and development at Marathon Corporation in Neenah, Wisconsin, necessitating a move to Appleton, Wisconsin, for their young family, which included three children, Kathryn, Susan and William. In 1958, Marathon merged with American Can Company which remained his employer for many years. John was appointed as the American Can representative on the board of Evapex Corporation, a joint venture between American Can and Flambeau Paper Company in Park Falls, Wisconsin, which concentrated spent sulfite liquor for shipment to the American Can chemical division at Rothschild.

John worked in various positions at American Can attaining the position of director of research and development of plastic tubes and bottles in Batavia, Illinois. He later was made director of research and development for flexible packaging in Neenah, Wisconsin with a staff of 140.

During this time, John was active in church affairs and served on the council of Trinity Lutheran Church in Appleton, Wisconsin, and sang in the choir there. He also sang in the McDowell male chorus in Appleton.
In 1980, John retired, and he and Claire moved to Baileys Harbor, Door County, Wisconsin, the town where both sets of John’s grandparents and his parents had lived. John and Claire joined Immanuel Lutheran Church and he served on the church council and sang in the choir. He was financial secretary for the Ridges Sanctuary for several years and was a member of the task force that raised funds to free the Clearing from ownership by the Farm Bureau.

While living in Door County, John and Claire were avid cross-country skiers and enjoyed finding new trails. They were also big fans of the Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers. They made many trips to Madison to cheer on the Badgers and held season tickets for the Packers for 53 years.

A resume of John’s life must include his passion for golf, both in organizing and participating. He got his start playing golf at age 13, when two uncles, Frank Blakefield and Ted Lundberg took him to play Peninsula State Park golf course in Door County, Wisconsin, where they had free season passes because John’s grandfather, Frank Blakefield, Sr., was a friend of the park superintendent. John caddied at Maxwelton Braes in Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin, when the 18 hole fee was 75 cents and he was happy when he usually got a dollar for a round.

John won the Madison Junior Championship at age 14. He was captain of the golf team at Wisconsin High and led them, as medalist, to the Madison High School championship. At age 16, he won the championship at Peninsula State Park golf course, the first of his nine titles there. He also won two championships at Maxwelton Braes and two at the Door County Senior Tournament.

John was the first golf coach at Gibraltar High School in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, and coached from 1989-1993. The team’s best year was in 1990 when they finished third in the state tournament in the small schools division. The team was led by Jim Schultz, now head professional at Oneida Golf Club in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Jason Daubner, now head professional and general manager at Peninsula. John wants to acknowledge the help given by Sturgeon Bay golf coach, Tony Smith, in establishing Gibraltar in the conference.

John was one of the founders of the Peninsula Golf Associates (PGA), a volunteer group that operates the golf course for the state of Wisconsin, and served on the board of directors for 27 years. One interesting project John had along with Wally Klepp (president of PGA), was designing and relocating the 9th green. John even mowed the green during its early development stage.

Once they retired, John and Claire spent their winters in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, at a golf course community to be sure they could play golf year round. They also made many golfing trips throughout the years, usually with friends. They visited Scotland five times, played 32 different courses, including the famous ones, and also attended the British Open.

John liked nothing better than playing new golf courses and estimated that he played about 250 different courses in his lifetime. The running joke was that the only time that he did not take his golf clubs on a vacation was on his honeymoon.

Also active in organizing golf activities, John initiated and ran a tournament for 80 employees at the Standard Oil Refinery. At Peninsula, John and his friend, Don Moore, ran two leagues for men, and together with friend, Wally Klepp, started and ran a group for couples. He also ran a tournament for men and women with Spencer Gould. SCAND was the beneficiary of proceeds from a golf tournament at Bay Ridge that John helped organize. John also helped run the Resorters Tournament at Peninsula for many years. He had a 75 year love affair with Peninsula State Golf Course. Unfortunately, John’s active golf career was cut short at the age of 89 due to macular degeneration.

The last years of John’s life were spent at The Holmstad, a retirement community in Batavia, IL, where he and Claire moved to be closer to their daughter, Sue.


A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 11:00 AM at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Baileys Harbor, WI with the family greeting attendees from 10:00-11:00 AM at the church. Luncheon will follow at the church.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Peninsula Golf Association to fund junior golf development (PO Box 275, Fish Creek, WI, 54212), Immanuel Lutheran Church (PO Box 115, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202) or a charity of the donor’s choice.

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