Mr. Joe “Jay” Brandner was a long time member of Saint Henry Parish who passed away in 2020 at the age of 94. Born in Latonia, he and his wife Barbara, a substitute teacher at St. Henry Grade School in the 1960’s and 70’s, lived on Place Street in Erlanger where they raised their two children, Steve and Susan, who also attended St. Henry Grade School. After his wife passed, he lived at the Baptist Life Community in Erlanger the last few years of his life. You may have seen Mr. Brandner at the 9:30 Mass on Sundays where he was a regular attendee until his health prevented him from attending in 2019. He was the very humble and kind man sitting next to you in the pew who always had the World War 2 hat that he wore with pride placed next to his seat.
He was also something of a hero in WW2 as were most all who served. As a Second Class Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, he survived the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Phillipines in 1944, but just barely. His ship, the USS Suwannee, an escort carrier, shot down the first two kamikaze planes but was struck by the third causing many deaths on board. The next day, the ship was attacked again by a kamikaze plane, this time causing over one hundred deaths and 160 injured. Mr. Brandner’s best friend on the ship was killed in the second attack while at his post manning a gun which Mr. Brandner had traded shifts for that day.
A few months later, he also witnessed history as his ship was the first to sail to the port of Nagasaki after the second atomic bomb was dropped there. He fondly recalled bringing hard candy to give to the children who survived who would follow the sailors around the city. Later in life, Mr. Brandner would bring candy to the children of St. Henry Grade School too. And, ironically, the grandmother of his grandson’s wife survived the destruction from the bomb in Nagasaki.
Mr. and Mrs Brandner lived out their lives in Erlanger, with Jay working at the US Post Office, and Barbara a substitute teacher, and always supporting their parish. And even upon their passing, they kept St. Henry Grade School in mind with the establishment of the Barbara Jean and Joseph Charles Brandner Memorial Fund dedicated to the education and enrichment of future generations of Crusaders.
Mr. Brandner’s World War 2 Navy photo in this article is now displayed on a banner on a utility pole on Dixie Highway across from St. Henry Church where so much of his and his family’s lives were lived.
Provided by Larry Klein