John Brogan-Long Time Board Member Passes
The following text is taken from John Brogan’s obituary on the Cotter Funeral Home web page.
“John C Brogan
September 13, 1934 – October 13, 2018
John Calnan Brogan truly lived. Born in Green Bay, on Friday the 13th of September, 1934, — perhaps a generation later than he should have been — in the midst of the Great Depression, he had a penchant for history, an acerbic wit, and an ear for a good story. A silver tongue convinced his father to help him join the military in the years leading up to the Korean War, dropping him into the whirlwind of impending conflict in Southeast Asia. That whirlwind followed to The University of Wisconsin at Madison for college, as he witnessed a campus beginning to churn from the turmoil of Vietnam. Those formative experiences had a profound impact: he developed a commitment to service, a knack for observing the nexus between the global and the local, and an implacable sense of justice and integrity.
Returning to Green Bay from Madison after his father’s untimely death, he embarked on a career in finance. He supported his mother and his younger brother (James D.) through college, working as a stock broker for Citizens Securities. In 1964, he made his maiden voyage to Europe, landing in West Germany on a historical trip commemorating the respective ends of both great wars, where he convinced a stunning hanseatic woman working for Lufthansa to marry him (Gisela Bühnemann) on the promise that life with him “would never be dull.” And it was not. In the wake of one of the hottest summers on record John and Gisela had a daughter, Anja. With rosy cheeks, a round head and a ski-jump nose she was the spitting image of her adoring father. In 1972, he acquired the Bank of Kaukauna with his brother, and a decade later, he founded a “bag mill”, Wisconsin Converting. In his spare time, he developed land in Door County and dabbled in other ventures. He achieved financial success, but that was the least interesting thing about him.
He had a glorious mind. An intrepid learner, he devoured nonfiction, particularly works about economics and geopolitics. He recognized patterns – in markets and history – that he could turn to his advantage. He had a keen memory and was apt to quote Pepys or Dr. Johnson to illustrate a point. He absorbed information from as many sources as he could lay hands on, reading two or three newspapers a day. To friends and colleagues, he was known to sometimes dole out terse assignments via phone: “Wall Street Journal, A4, left side. Will call you later to discuss,” followed by the staccato click of handset hitting receiver. Often he called back, but sometimes it remained a mystery. He loved to chase ideas, to conquer new things. When he trained his sights on an issue, he turned it over and over, pulling in everyone in his orbit who would listen to his latest concept. These conversations could sometimes be one-sided affairs – though he did permit the opportunity to agree with him from time to time – but he always had a unique perspective and something interesting to say.
He believed in service. He ran, unsuccessfully, for Mayor of De Pere. He served as Commissioner of the Green Bay Water Utility for twenty four years. He served two terms on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, under Governors Lucey and Earl, during which he was instrumental in the clean-up and revitalization of the Fox River and the establishment of The Whitefish Bay Dunes as a state park. He was a former Foundation President and served on the board of the Neville Public Museum, as well as the boards of the Packer Stadium Commission, the Green Bay Symphony, and the Izaak Walton League. Throwing himself into these roles, he attacked with the same dedication, honesty, and integrity that he brought to all things. On matters of principle, he would not back down, regardless of what it cost him.
He fashioned himself an eccentric. He wore bowties. He loved the opera. He couldn’t be bothered to remember the password to anything digital. He told children outlandish stories about being eaten by giant toads. Every 4th of July he acquired a blasting license to put on elaborate fireworks presentations on Whitefish Bay in Door County with the explicit rule being that nobody was allowed to set off fireworks other than he, to save the tender digits of the neighborhood urchins. He loved kids; he gave them nicknames like “the Howler” and “Space Cadet” and delivered lectures on the value of compound interest to ten year olds. When no one was looking, he could be utterly tender. Or sneak a piece of candy. He developed his own Laws of Economics (“Never buy anything that eats! Only buy things that pay.”). He would sometimes abruptly finish a thought with ambiguous references: “And you know what the Prussians thought of that?” peering hawkishly, eyebrows raised in wide alarm, brow furrowed. He was a proud veteran and ardent Democrat – an anomaly in the financial industry. A friend once called him the “finest raconteur” he’d ever known.
He was no saint – nor would he want to be – but he was an extraordinary person, husband, and father. He never forgot a friend. Or an enemy. But who has truly lived that hasn’t ruffled a feather?
He is survived by his wife Gisela and his daughter Anja; his sister in law Julie Brogan; his nephew John James and his wife Patricia and their Daughter Niamh; his niece Shannon and her husband Stephen Hargrave and their children Rowan and Phoebe; along with his cousins Robert Brogan and William Clancy and their families.
He is predeceased by his parents, John J. and Marguerite (Calnan) Brogan, and his brother, James D.”