Brendan Richard “Bud” Branley (1928 – 2020) died peacefully at home in New York City on October 19, 2020, aged 91. Catholic missionary, civil servant, and scholar, he was known for his keen sense of social justice, intellectual curiosity, ready wit, and a tendency toward iconoclasm.
Published obituary in the New York Times, Oct. 19-20, 2020:
Born on December 8, 1928 in Rochester, Minnesota, Bud was the middle child of Edward Branley and Regina Hand. After college, he surprised his family by announcing his intention to join the priesthood. Bud was ordained in 1955 at Maryknoll, a seminary dedicated to training missionaries for service in Asia. Dispatched to Japan, he grew to love the culture and spent a total of 8 years there. In 1965, during a stint back in the U.S., he travelled to Selma to stand in solidarity with demonstrators.
Over time, Bud became disillusioned with the church, feeling that Vatican II did not go far enough in adapting practices for non-western laity. At a Kyoto Christmas party in 1967, he met Mary Clark. Leaving the priesthood, he followed her back to the U.S. where they wed in June 1968. Four days after moving into their house in Washington D.C., their first daughter, Maureen, was born, followed 17 months later by Deirdre.
Bud grew an advisory service for unemployed ex-priests into a career at the Department of Labor. On his first day as Head of Employee Training, he shocked his team when, shown a heaving inbox of documents, he swept them into the trash. “If it’s important, I’ll hear about it,” he told them. He stayed in the post for 20 years.
Bud nurtured a wide-ranging and revolving set of hobbies, from racquetball to carving African masks and Mexican bultos. In the early 1980’s his Polaroids won two successive prizes in the Washington Post’s Amateur Photography Contest. He taught himself ten languages, including Navajo and Russian. A voracious collector of second-hand books, he once used the opportunity of a daughter’s ski trip to build floor to ceiling bookcases in her bedroom to house them.
In the mid 1990s, newly retired and divorced, Bud relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he once again became active in the Church, helping to found a food bank in his parish. He also earned his third masters’ degree and, at 79, a Ph.D. in Art History, writing his dissertation on the intersection of Spanish missionary and indigenous visual cultures in 16th century colonial Mexico.
With declining health, he moved to New York City in 2010, to live near, and eventually with, his daughter Deirdre and her family. Dubbed “Pop Pop” by his grandchildren, he delighted neighbors and caregivers with his good humor and mentorship.
Bud is survived by his sisters Mona Price and Patricia Weingart, his two daughters, and three grandchildren, Ava and Feena Trujillo, and Zoe Pereira-Stubbs. Funeral service at Name of Our Lord Church, Manhattan. A Memorial Service is planned for 2021 in Washington, D.C. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in his name to the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington, D.C.
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