Sunday, December 10, 2023


Russell L. Brenneman, Pioneering Environmentalist, 88

Russell L. Brenneman of Westport, an environmental lawyer, teacher, and activist, died Oct. 10 at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport. He was 88. Image
Russ Brenneman was honored in June in Westport for his environmental work. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

He was a pioneering member of the environmental movement, in which he was active for over half a century. 

From the movement’s infancy in the 1960s until his death, he devoted countless hours to the conservation and management of forests and open land, the control of air and water pollution, and the development of environmental and energy policy.

He was born Aug. 15, 1928 in Springfield, Ill. to Russell L. Brenneman, Sr., a banker, and Anita Seeds Brenneman, both of Columbus, Ohio.  He was raised mostly in Tucson, Ariz., and Columbus.

He received his undergraduate degree from the Ohio State University and subsequently entered Harvard Law School, from which he graduated in 1953. 

While at Harvard, he met and married his fellow classmate and wife of 65 years, Frederica Shoenfield Brenneman, now a Connecticut superior court judge.

After graduating from law school, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army in the office of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. 

He came to love Connecticut as a boy, spending many happy summers at the second home of his maternal aunt and uncle, Charmé Seeds Speaks and Charles Speaks. 

He returned with Frederica to settle permanently in the state upon his honorable discharge from the Army in 1956.

He was a founding partner of the Connecticut law firm of Copp, Brenneman & Tighe.  From 1976 to 1981, he served in the public sector as president of the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority. 

In 1981, he returned to private practice as a partner with Murtha, Cullina, Richter & Pinney in Hartford, where he founded the firm’s environmental law practice group..

He was the author of the seminal “Private Approaches to the Preservation of Open Land” (1964) and, with Sarah M. Bates, “Land Saving Action” (1984), in addition to numerous speeches and articles. 

He co-founded the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters and served as president and a director of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association. 

Through his teaching as an adjunct professor of environmental law and policy at the University of Connecticut School of Law and at Trinity College, and through his mentorship and training of young lawyers at the firms where he practiced, he influenced a generation of young people interested in protecting the environment.

In 2013.  hereceived an Environmental Merit Award for Lifetime Achievement from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  Earlier this year, the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut further honored him with an official citation recognizing his lifelong dedication to environmental conservation. 

It read in part: “Your work established the state’s earliest community land trusts, enabling conservation easements across the state, and has made you an indispensable attorney of unparalleled skill.“honor

In June, he was honored for his environmental work at a reception at the Westport home of G. Kenneth Bernhard.

He is survived by his wife, Frederica Brenneman, two sons, Matthew and Andrew, and his daughter Amy; and by five grandchildren, Granger Brenneman, Charlotte and Bodhi Silberling, and Ava and Charles Brenneman. 

Donations in his honor may be made to the Connecticut Forest & Park Association or to the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. 

The family welcomes friends and those who loved him to celebrate his long and fruitful life on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. at Saugatuck Congregational Church.

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