Adelaide Brennan's father, Edward
Brennan, did more than anyone in Chicago history to rationalize the city's street system.
But she remembered him for spending most of his weekends with
her and his other two young daughters, Mary and Agnes, taking trips around the city on the
"L", teaching them how to swim and going to Benediction at St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Rogers Park on Sunday afternoons.
"He seemed to have time for the important things," she said.
"There wasn't a (weekday) night we didn't run down to the corner to look for him walking home."
Ms. Brennan, 99, who taught for 36 years in
Chicago schools, many of them as a Roman Catholic nun, died of heart failure Thursday, March 27, at St. Joseph Hospital in
Chicago, her second cousin Pat Gorman said.
Her father was a building superintendent at a Loop firm who,
starting in 1901, successfully lobbied to make State and Madison streets the center point for the street numbering system.
He also was influential in eliminating hundreds of duplicate street names and in enacting a variety of other measures to make
Chicago one of the easiest cities in the world for finding one's way.
Edward Brennan, who attended an estimated
600 City Hall meetings in his efforts to straighten Chicago's streets, died in 1942. For much of their adult lives, his three
daughters worked to keep bright the memory of their father and all he accomplished. Their mother, Beatrice,
died in 1953.
Agnes Brennan died in 1999, and Mary
Brennan McGraw in 2004. So Adelaide Brennan was alone when the capstone of their efforts came with
the honorary designation of State and Madison as Edward Brennan Way in August. It was her 99th birthday.
"This tribute today," she said in a statement at the ceremony,
"is the fulfillment of my hopes and dreams for many years and a very special gift for me today."
Born in 1914, Ms. Brennan entered the Sisters
of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1937 and took the name Sister Mary St. Beatrice, BVM. During her
time with the order she obtained a bachelor's degree from Clarke College (now Clarke University) in Dubuque, Iowa, and she
was one of the first women to obtain a degree from the University of Notre Dame, earning a master's in economics,
From 1950 to 1967 she was on the faculty of St. Mary High School
at 2044 W. Grenshaw St. in Chicago, teaching commercial classes including bookkeeping, typing and shorthand.
After leaving the religious order to care for her ailing sisters,
she taught disadvantaged teens in the Chicago Public Schools system. Those who
knew Ms. Brennan were struck by her serenity and good humor, even in the face of worsening physical ailments.
"I tried to let Adelaide know that her impact on me, my family and the lives of all she touched was extremely
important to this world," Gorman said.
Ms. Brennan and her sisters helped their father
create a one-of-a-kind historical record — seven thick scrapbooks containing hundreds of newspaper clippings from 1884
to 1942 relating the city's history, as well as documents and correspondence on the street system.
In 1958 the sisters donated the scrapbooks to the Chicago History
Museum, where they have been an important resource for scholars.
"Edward Brennan's lifelong fascination with
a rational system of street names and addressing is seen in the scrapbooks he compiled on the subject over several decades,"
said Chicago geographer and historian Dennis McClendon.
"These seven volumes provide a unique insight into the system
Chicagoans take for granted."
Ms. Brennan leaves no immediate survivors.
Services were private, and a memorial Mass is being planned.
From Joan Sadek Gacek (class of 1954):
"In my Senior year, we had a magazine drive and got points for selling magazines. These points were like votes given to us to vote for a girl. The prize was a modeling scholarship to Estelle Compton Modeling School on Michigan Avenue. I was not a popular girl because I did not live around or even close to the school. I traveled by streetcar my first year and 3 busses the next 3 years. My
mother wanted my to have a good education and St. Mary's was one of the best girls schools in Chicago. I made many friends at the school.
"I learned this when we had our 50th reunion and was remembered by all.
On the day they announced the winner, we had the Four Lads, a very poplar singing group,
on stage to give away the $300 scholarship. I
was shocked when they announced my name, but overjoyed that I got the most votes.
"I went to modeling school for over
a year but learned how to walk, put on make-up and most of all that I did not want to be a model especially after I heard
a phone call from someone looking for a girl with the biggest bust. This was not
the way I wanted to be known. I often think about the wonderful years at St. Mary's
and proud to be a graduate of this school.
"After I graduated and got my driver's license, l drove over to Taylor Street
to see my old friends. I think they were so glad I remembered them. To this day I follow how I should look and take pride that I was loved by so many. I teased the girls at the reunion that the only way I won was because they felt sorry for me, because the
way I looked and dressed and we had a laugh, but they denied that statement.
"I got a wonderful education, and to this day, my kids and grandkids always
ask me how to spell a word or a math answer."