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John J. Breen

1942 - 2014 Obituary Condolences
John J. Breen Obituary
Breen, John J. 71, a devoted husband and father who was a mentor to generations of Connecticut journalists, died Wednesday, February 19, 2014, at Chestelm Health and Rehabilitation Center in Moodus from complications related to vascular dementia. He was born in Chicago on July 20, 1942, the son of the late Daniel and Grace (Weiler) Breen. He graduated from Taft High School in 1960 and went on to earn his BA and MA from the University of Illinois, where he also met his beloved wife, Jean (Keyser), who died in 1983. A newspaper reporter and editor in Illinois and Albany, Breen eventually spent 36 years as a journalism professor at the University of Connecticut. It was there that he taught countless future reporters and editors who went on to make their marks in Connecticut and beyond. As one of his former students, the Atlantic Monthly correspondent Robert Kaplan, told Breen on the occasion of his retirement from UConn: "All you need is a few good teachers to make college useful, and your introductory courses to journalism were a pivot in my life." Breen, ever conscious of the need to provide balance, noted that he had once advised the undergraduate Kaplan to pursue a different course of study, believing he would never make it as a reporter. In addition to teaching, Breen was active in civic life, serving as chairman of the Lebanon Board of Education in the 1970s and as a member of the Connecticut Newspaper Project, which worked to preserve the state's journalism heritage. After the death of his wife, Breen found enjoyment in restoring antique cars and radios, in his weekly column for the Journal Inquirer, and in raising his two sons. Late in life, he delighted in spending time with his grandchildren, and in the expansion of Chicago broadcaster WGN into a national cable channel, which enabled him to watch his beloved Cubs get eliminated from the pennant race in real time. He leaves his son and daughter-in-law, Dan and Jenny, of Ithaca, NY, and their children, Andrew and Kate; his son, Tom, of Manchester; his niece and nephew, Jennifer Kelly and David Wrisley, both of Chicago, along with their spouses and children; and friends and former students. His family would like to thank the staff at Chestelm for their compassionate and dedicated care. Visitation hours will be from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, February 24 at Watkins Funeral Home, 142 East Center Street, Manchester, CT. In lieu of flowers, he would have preferred donations in his memory made to a powerful wizard capable of securing a Cubs World Series victory, your favorite bar, or the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, http://www.rcfp.org. To leave an online condolence please visit www.holmes-watkinsfuneralhomes.com
Published in Chicago Sun-Times on Feb. 23, 2014
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