A hero in war and classroom
Editor's Note: Two issues ago, we featured a cover story on selected MU heroes and asked our readers for more nominees.
The late Glenn Branson '48 was a decorated war veteran and a 30-year high school history teacher who chose his career path in junior high and never looked back. His brother, Robert Branson '46 remembers him as all that, plus as the big brother he always admired. They grew up on East Olive Street in the 1930s. Glenn was quiet and took things as they came. He was a serious student and did well in school. Robert remembers, one of Glenn's teachers at Centennial Junior High School, Mr. Lamar, inspired him to teach in the history field. "I don't think Glenn ever thought of his life's work being anything other than teaching history," says his brother Robert. "Glenn, like a lot of us, was a child of the Depression. However, luck was with us in having our parents. They supported us in our endeavors and we learned to do with what we had. Glenn was the first in our immediate family to earn a college degree."
Glenn always had a job and time for sports. Robert said, "He made friends easily and was good in athletics. He played American Legion Baseball and basketball at Centennial." Robert says, "Glenn played first base and his friend, Jimmy Christman '46, was catcher. During one game, a pop fly was hit between the two of them; a loud call went out, "I've got it', then a terrible collision between the two players, much like a Bugs bunny cartoon. Glenn lost his four front teeth and Christman had a broken nose. Glenn's teeth were out for some time. He was running for class president and his partial plate was not ready, but this obstacle did not keep him from making his speech. Try saying "Mr. President, faculty and fellow students" while holding your tongue. (He was elected.)
After high school, the brothers along with some of their friends attended Millikin, working on campus for 35 cents an hour to offset the cost of their tuition. Glenn also ran a paper route. Robert says, "Glenn was ripe for the military when the war erupted. At his age it wasn't - 'Am I getting into the service?' - it was when." Glenn, then 20, and Robert, then 18, registered for the draft in July 1942 and that fall, Glenn attended basic training followed by radio school. He journeyed to the West Coast, then on to the South Pacific. When Glenn landed at Mindoro, on a destroyer or landing craft there were kamikazes present. He served more than 30 months in New Guinea, the Philippines and other islands in the South Pacific, earning four bronze stars and a good conduct medal for his actions during this time. At war's end in 1945, Glenn returned home to finish his final two years of college. He and his friend, "the late Arnold Kopetz" '48 couldn't see wasting the summer, and decided to fund their expenses by helping to paint the houses being built for returning soldiers.
Glenn married Jane Perry in 1947 and the newlyweds lived in Millikin-provided housing for returning soldiers with families until he graduated in 1948 and began teaching at Marseilles High School. He took summer classes at the University of Illinois earning a master's degree in American history. After moving to Brookfield in 1958 along with Jane and their two sons, Mark and Van, Glenn taught history at Riverside-Brookfield High School until retiring in 1979.
"Glenn's effect on the world - like the majority of us - was mostly contained within our immediate area and not of a huge scope like a president or general," Robert says. "However, for 30-plus years Glenn shared his inspiration and devoted his life to enriching our youth and influencing their choice of livelihood." Robert shared that one of Glenn's biggest thrills was when a former student, stopped by his office and told Glenn that he had achieved his goal of becoming a professor of American history. Robert says, "That must have been a red letter day."
Glenn Branson died Feb. 11, 2012, at age 90.