ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – Donald Leedy Brenneman, 83, died Mar. 11 in Colorado Springs after a year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. Although Brenneman's ministry took him to many locations within the United States and in Latin America, he and his wife, Marilyn, settled in Colorado in 2010 and made Mountain Community Mennonite Church their home congregation.
Brenneman was born in Elida, Ohio, to Timothy and Rowena Leedy Brenneman on Feb. 19, 1934. When he was 4 years old, he boarded a ship headed for Argentina where his family served through Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. They worked in Argentina for seven years with no furlough because of the dangers of travel during World War II. After the Brenneman family's return to the United States in 1945, they lived in Sarasota, Florida, where Brenneman's father helped to start Bay Shore Mennonite Church.
Brenneman attended Goshen (Indiana) College, and in 1955, married Marilyn, daughter of Lula and Noah Brenneman, in Kalona, Iowa. The couple then accepted their own ministry assignment with Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. They moved to Corpus Christi, Texas, to start a Spanish-speaking Mennonite church in their living room.
In 1958, Don and Marilyn moved to Chicago, first to co-pastor Second Mennonite Church, a Spanish-speaking congregation, and later as the sole pastor couple. After eight years in Chicago, the Brenneman family spent a year at what is now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. In 1967, Don and Marilyn and their three children accepted a third placement with the same mission agency. This time in Pehuajó, Argentina. In 1967, Don's family moved into the same house in which he had lived as a child. After four years, they moved to Cosquín, a small town in Argentina's province of Córdorba.
Raul García, who co-pastored the Mennonite congregation in Pehuajó with Brenneman, said, "Don was a consecrated minister with a deep knowledge of the Scriptures and a practical, Christian way of life. He and his wife, Marilyn, and their children were much appreciated for their humble dedication and service."
In 1974, the Brenneman family returned to the United States and Don served as pastor of North Goshen (Indiana) Mennonite Church for eight years. This was followed by a year as an itinerant Bible teacher in Argentina, traveling to all the Mennonite churches. From 1984-1987, Don and Marilyn served in Santiago, Chile.
When the Brenneman couple returned from Chile, they returned to Second Mennonite Church, where Don served as interim pastor. Then they moved to North Carolina to start Greensboro Mennonite Fellowship, and to oversee the ministry of the Eastern Carolina District of Virginia Mennonite Conference, traveling between five congregations to preach and do pastoral visits.
Brenneman retired as pastor of Greensboro Mennonite Fellowship in 1998 after 42 years of ministry on two continents. However, Brenneman's life of service continued in his job of delivering late luggage in a four-state region through Same Day Delivery Service. Marilyn said that "Don loved getting out and meeting all sorts of people."
He also donated his body to medical research as a way to participate in the search for an earlier diagnosis for pancreatic cancer.
Brenneman is survived by Marilyn and their three children, David (Karla), of Elkhart; Jonathan (Julie), of Wadsworth, Ohio; and Rosalind, of Colorado Springs; four grandchildren; and one sister, Patricia Santiago, of Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Memorial gifts may be sent to Mennonite Mission Network or Pikes Peak Hospice.