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John Brennand – Santa Barbara Independent

Date of Birth
September 15, 1935
Date of Death
June 30, 2022
John Brennand, renowned Godfather of recreational and competitive running in Santa Barbara, passed away on June 30th at Cottage Hospital after a brief battle with COVID 19, exacerbated by dementia. An influential leader in the Southern California race community, he was also an exceptional engineer and beloved husband, father, and brother.
Born in El Paso, TX on September 15th, 1935, John was raised in Santa Fe, NM where he graduated from Santa Fe High School in 1952. He completed his degree in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, graduating in 1957. A competitive skier of national class at CU, he also became interested in running. He went East for an MS in Electrical Engineering at M.I.T. where he met and married Carolyn “Cally” Huss and they began their family life together at Vandenberg Air Force base in 1959. Moving soon thereafter to Santa Barbara, John started to work with General Research in 1960. Their first son, Bob was born in 1961, daughter Karen in 1962 and younger son Scott in 1967.
John became one of the first computer engineers at General Research, working with state-of-the-art mainframe machines of that early era. His efforts were instrumental in advancing flight dynamics and advanced electro-propulsion for automotive.
John became active in road-running and racing, competing all over South California very early in his career. Prior to the running boom of the 1970’s, at a race in Los Angeles, he learned there was an established, but largely inactive running group, the Santa Barbara Athletic Club. John signed up immediately to wear the blue-and-white singlet and blue shorts, and got involved with the organization of club racing and training. He became a driving force of the club and de facto organizer of runners from every corner of the Central coast area. He inspired others to run and many were enthusiastic women who became a large part of the SBAA membership and very successful competitors. Anywhere there was a race, John would fill the family station wagon, a French Citroen, with runners to compete, arriving in the nick of time for the starting gun. He was and remained Secretary-Treasurer of the club, later the S.B. Athletic Association, for almost forty-eight years, stepping down in 2010 as age, injuries and illness slowed him.
John was a first-class runner, competing successfully in Southern California and later nationally and internationally. He raced, placing well in several Boston Marathons, raced in in several Olympic Marathon trials, and raced overseas in various locations in World Masters competition. John’s personal best marathon was 2:28.01 at Eugene in 1981, at age 46. He considered the epitome of his running career a 32:35 10K (5:15 per mile) at age 49. His final marathon was in May 2018 at the age of 82, when he ran Mountain to Sea (Ojai) and continued to run Wednesday Nite Moves with family until 2019
John grew a network of local races and established new races in the Santa Barbara area. He was the founding race director for the Santa Barbara Marathon, directed Semana Nautica for many years and assisted the McConnell’s Ice Cream run, still ongoing in its 41 years. In 1984 John was the technical director of the men’s and women’s Olympic marathons in Los Angeles. In 1987 John was awarded the Russ Hargreaves Memorial award for recreational achievement by the Santa Barbara Roundtable Athletic Association and was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Special Achievement in 1995. His son Scott was also inducted the same year for High School Coach of the Year.
John and Cally had a rambling house in the foothills, where they welcomed guests and runners of all ages before or after races, on holidays, and where they raised their three children. In 1983 the family was honored by the County of Santa Barbara as Family of the Year, because of their active role in community leadership beyond running, encompassing serving Salvation Army holiday dinners, and volunteering in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, PTA, Jaycees and numerous charities. John’s passion for sport was passed on to his children, each competitive in running, tennis, golf, swimming and/or water polo. Long summer backpacking trips in the Sierras, spring ski trips and sailing regattas were “embraced” as family vacations. Son Bob and grandson Nate shared John’s fleet of foot and competed as “three generations” in several national championships. A beloved mother and wife, Cally passed away in 1996.
John found love again with the Hon. Riblet Riblet. They married in 1997 and led a merry life. While John was retired, Robin continued to preside in the bankruptcy court until her retirement in 2014. Nevertheless, they found time for yearly hiking trips throughout Italy, sometimes with a group of friends from Santa Barbara, sometimes with Robin’s brother and sister-in-law and often alone.
In 2001 John and Robin bought a mountain retreat in the Canadian Rockies town of Canmore, Alberta, where they, family and friends have spent many wonderful vacations, hiking innumerable mountain trails in the summers and skiing Lake Louise and other resorts in the winters.
Robin was a loving and devoted wife to John his last twenty-five years.
John is survived by wife Robin, his three children and their spouses: Bob (Sally), Karen (Kent), Scott (Betty) and six grandchildren, and five brothers: David, Daniel, Paul, Mark and Peter.
“I have lived my life; I have run my race”. In lieu of flowers or other remembrances, please consider donations to the Alzheimer’s Association.
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