Several friends and old political allies gathered Thursday outside Portland City Hall, waiting for the hearse that brought the body of former Gov. Joseph Brennan at the start of public viewing.

Each in their own way spoke of Brennan in his different facets: politician, working-class Irishman and lifelong Portland resident.

Marsha Marley, who volunteered on phone banks, voter registration drives and door-to-door campaigning on behalf of Brennan, said she wanted to pay her respects “because of his ideals and what he wanted to do for the state.”

“It didn’t matter what walk of life you were in,” said Marley, a Portland resident.

Brennan, who was governor from 1979-87, Cumberland County district attorney, Maine attorney general, and a member of both chambers of the state Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives, died April 6. He was 89.

A brief, low-key ceremony began with seven state troopers serving as pallbearers carrying Brennan’s casket, draped with the U.S. flag, up the 15 steps through City Hall’s front entrance. They were followed by Gov. Janet Mills and Brennan family members.


At the top of the steps, bagpipers Steve Lemieux and Vera Maheu of the Maine State Police Pipe and Drum Unit played “Going Home.”

Son of a longshoreman and Irish immigrants, Brennan didn’t leave Portland, where he was born. “He grew up on the hill,”  Jill O’Brien Thiel said referring to Portland’s Munjoy Hill, where he died just blocks from where he was raised as one of eight children.

People walk through City Hall Thursday after Maine State Police escorted the body of Gov. Joseph Brennan into the State of Maine Room before a public viewing. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“He was a good friend and a good political leader,” said Thiel, whose mother, Jadine O’Brien, was Maine’s commissioner of the state Department of Personnel in the Brennan administration. “I wish we had more of them around.”

Martina Curtin, president of the Irish Cultural Centre of Greater Boston, said she got to know Brennan because he attended many Irish events in Boston. “He was always so proud of his Irish heritage,” she said.

Her husband, Craig Carlson, said he remembers Brennan for “his ability to listen and bring sides together.”

A Mass for Brennan is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Portland. He will be buried at Calvary Cemetery in South Portland.

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