Neil Richard Brenden was born on July 19, 1940 and he died on March 8, 2022 in Petchaboon, Thailand. He was a devoted leader in health care for communities around the world. Throughout his career, Neil worked to bring medical services to those in economically disadvanataged communities and those with Aids. He was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Ingvald Neil Brenden and Lillian Hysen Brenden. He spent his childhood through high school in Eau Claire developing many friendships that continue today. His class of 1958 was the first class to graduate from the new Memorial High School.
He attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota where he was a proud member of the St. Olaf Choir. There he met his wife, Marta Kristine Brenden, who was also in the Choir. Their marriage was after Marta’s graduation in 1963. Neil joined Marta at the University of Minnesota to study at the School of Social Work. Upon earning Master’s degrees in Social Work, the two were recruited by Lutheran World Relief to join Vietnam Christian Service in community development and relief work in Saigon, Vietnam. This experience set Neil on his life’s path to better the lives of disadvantaged communities.
After 2 years in Vietnam, the two returned home to the U.S. Their first child, Elizabeth Aileen Brenden, was born. Neil worked in marriage counseling and adoptions at Lutheran Social Services in Toledo, Ohio. Within 2 years, Neil again sought international work. He was hired to work in Nigeria following the end of the Nigerian civil war in Biafra. At the Christian Council of Nigeria, Neil worked in the reconstruction of the maternity and primary care clinics as well as the schools following their destruction by the war. For two years Neil observed primary care in eastern Nigeria and became convinced that public health was a critical program for improving health among disadvantaged communities. Once in the US, Neil studied at the University of California, Berkeley, at the School of Public Health, earning a second Master’s degree. Following this program, Neil was hired to be the Director of the East Oakland Mental Health Center in Alameda County, California.
Again, international fields called him to work. He was recruited to be Director of Asian and African programs at Lutheran World Relief. This position gave him access to the increasing understanding of Primary Care programs. While employed, Neil entered Yeshiva University in New York City, achieving a Doctorate in Social Welfare. His dissertation addressed the development of Primary Care programs in India under the leadership of Doctors Raj and Maybelle Arole in Jamkhed, India. Restless to continue to expand his learning, Neil moved to become Program Director at the National Conference on International Health in Washington, D.C.
Drawn again to practical work, Neil moved to Family Health International in Research Triangle Park, NC. At FHI Neil became a member of the AIDS Control and Prevention Program, AIDSCAP. From there he was placed as Director the AIDSCAP program in Thailand. That move proved to be permanent. From there Neil directed the AIDSCAP Regional program in Asia, and provided technical assistance in other areas by the time of his retirement. In Thailand, Neil also expanded his spiritual practices to include Thai Buddhism. His funeral was held at the Thai Temple after his death on March 8, 2022. The funeral was consummated in the cremation of his remains on Friday, March 11.
Neil is loved and remembered by his wife in Thailand, Pawana Wienrawee. He also leaves family, friends and many around the world who were able to work with him and benefit from his direction. He leaves his daughter, Elizabeth Aileen Brenden and partner Frank Morey, Plaistow, NH and son, Carl Henning Brenden, and his wife Pornpan Tadthong (Nok) and grandchildren Emily Elizabeth (15) and Nara Kristine (10), Ashland, MO; his sister, Jean Brenden Rasmussen Sivertson, Eau Claire, and her children Susan Jean Thorsen, Norway; Sharon Joy Rasmussen, Oregon; and Daniel Neil Brenna, Germany. He was preceded in death by his parents, Ingvald and Lillian Brenden, nephew Peter Rasmussen and brother inlaws Dale Rasmussen and Millard Sivertson.
Funeral services will be held in Eau Claire at the Smith Funeral Chapel on Friday, April 29th. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. and the funeral service will be at 11 a.m. at the Smith Funeral Chapel, 2222 London Road, Eau Claire, WI., conducted by Pastor Jim Ahlquist. Neil requested that he be buried at the foot of his Dad’s grave at Forest Hill Cemetery.
Memorials can be directed to the Parkinson’s Foundation or to the charity of choice. The address for the Parkinson’s Foundation is 200 SE 1st Street, Suite 800, Miami, FL 33131 or www.parkinson.org. (or the family can send to them).
Smith Funeral Chapel is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting:
Topic: Neil Brenden Service
Time: Apr 29, 2022 11:00 AM
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Meeting ID: 813 0716 5737