October 14, 2016
Russell L. Brenneman, a Connecticut environmental lawyer, teacher, and activist, died peacefully at St. Vincent's Medical Center, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on October 10th. He was 88.
Mr. Brenneman was born on August 15, 1928, in Springfield, Illinois, to Russell L. Brenneman, Sr., a banker, and Anita Seeds Brenneman, both of Columbus, Ohio. He was raised mostly in Tucson, Arizona, and Columbus. Mr. Brenneman received his undergraduate degree from the Ohio State University and in 1950 entered Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1953. While at Harvard, he met and married his fellow classmate and beloved wife of sixty-five years, Frederica Shoenfield Brenneman. After graduating from law school, Mr. Brenneman served as a lieutenant in the U.S Army in the office of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Mr. Brenneman came to love Connecticut as a boy, spending many happy summers at the second home of his maternal aunt and uncle, Charmé Seeds Speaks and Charles Speaks. He returned with Frederica to settle permanently in the state upon his honorable discharge from the Army in 1956.
Mr. Brenneman was a founding partner of the Connecticut law firm of Copp, Brenneman & Tighe. From 1976 to 1981 he served in the public sector as president of the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority. In 1981 he returned to private practice as a partner with Murtha, Cullina, Richter & Pinney in Hartford, where he founded the firm’s environmental law practice group.
Mr. Brenneman was a pioneering member of the environmental movement, in which he was active for over half a century. From the movement’s infancy in the 1960s until his passing, Mr. Brenneman devoted countless hours to the conservation and management of wilderness and open land, the control of air and water pollution, and the development of environmental and energy policy. He was the author of the seminal Private Approaches to the Preservation of Open Land (1964) and, with Sarah M. Bates, Land Saving Action (1984), in addition to numerous speeches and articles. He co-founded the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and served as president and a director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association. Through his teaching and mentorship as an adjunct professor of environmental law and policy at the University of Connecticut School of Law and at Trinity College, Mr. Brenneman influenced a generation of young people interested in environmental issues.
In 2013 Mr. Brenneman received an Environmental Merit Award for Lifetime Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Earlier this year, the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut further honored him with an official citation recognizing his lifelong dedication to protecting the environment. In the words of the General Assembly, directed to Mr. Brenneman, “Your work established the state’s earliest community land trusts, enabling conservation easements across the state, and has made you an indispensable attorney of unparalleled skill.”
Besides the love of his life, Ret. Judge Frederica Brenneman, Mr. Brenneman is survived by his two sons, Matthew and Andrew, his daughter Amy, and five grandchildren, Granger Brenneman, Charlotte and Bodhi Silberling, and Ava and Charlie Brenneman. Donations in Mr. Brenneman’s honor may be made to the Connecticut Forest & Park Association or to the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. The family welcomes friends and those who loved him to celebrate Mr. Brenneman and his long and fruitful life at Saugatuck Congregational Church in Westport on Saturday, October 29th at 2:00 p.m.