Michael R. Brannen, 85, a Lewiston resident and Niagara Falls industrialist who transformed a marginal chemical company into today's Niacet Corporation, died Friday, August 1, 2008 at home, surrounded by his loving family while under care of Niagara Hospice.
Told to sell Union Carbide Corp.'s Niacet operations in Niagara Falls in 1978, Mike, as he preferred to be called, bought the plant himself, ending a 30-year career with Carbide to manage his new company. He served as president and chief executive officer until turning control over to family members in 1999. Self described as "a poor boy from Cabin Creek," Mike was born in that West Virginia mining town on May 25, 1923, the son of Michael R. and Katherine Creasey Brannen. He attended East Bank High School, graduating in 1940, and then enrolled at Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, W.Va. Upon graduation, Mike enlisted in the Navy, serving as an aerographer's mate, 2nd Class with the Naval Air Transport Service in Hawaii and Guam during World War II. Returning home in January of 1946, he met Augusta King, who was working at the Union Carbide plant in South Charleston. W.Va. They were married on June 29 of that year after a six-week courtship.
Earning a degree in chemistry from Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston, W. Va., Mike joined Union Carbide in 1948 in South Charleston. Over the next 30 years, he worked in research and development, sales, and marketing at various locations, including Pittsburgh, PA; St. Louis, MO; Minneapolis, MN; and New York City. His outstanding success in positions of increasing responsibility earned him numerous awards from the giant chemical manufacturer. Before leaving Union Carbide, he was operations manager of the Specialty Chemicals Group, which was based in New York City.
The experience and contacts Mike gained at Union Carbide provided him with the background to make Niacet a successful company. Committed to the plant's workers, he was especially proud of the profit-sharing plan that was developed to allow them to share in the company's prosperity.
A tall, affable gentleman with a ready wit, Mike was most comfortable in the presence of family and friends. For a time, he owned and operated a grape vineyard in the Finger Lakes, which provided a weekend retreat for the family. Mike was also an avid golfer, an interest he shared with his wife. He also enjoyed returning to West Virginia, where he frequently sponsored family trips to celebrate significant events.
A firm believer in community, Mike generously supported several educational institutions, local hospitals, religious institutions and organizations dedicated to fighting various illnesses. He was a benefactor of Heart, Love and Soul, a Niagara Falls organization that assists the poor by providing food and healthcare.
Grateful for his education, Mike remained close to his alma mater. He served for a time as a member of the board of trustees of the University of Charleston, which granted him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2000. He was recognized in 2003, when Niagara University's College of Business Administration awarded Niacet its Western New York Business Appreciation Award. Mike was a member of the Niagara Falls Country Club, the Sea Island Golf Association, a past member of the President's Advisory Board at Niagara University and a communicant at St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church in Lewiston. He was also a member of St. William's Catholic Church, S1. Simons Island, GA, where he spent the winters with his wife.
In addition to Augusta "Gus," his wife of 62 years, Mike is survived by two sons, Michael ( Mary Ann ) of Leesburg, V A; and Kelly ( Joanne ) of Williamsville, NY; a daughter, Mary ( Larry ) Montani of Lewiston; 15 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, Patrick in 2001.
The family will be present at the RHONEY FUNERAL HOME, LEWISTON, Cayuga and So. Ninths, from 2 - 4 & 7 - 9 PM Tuesday, where funeral services will be held Wednesday at 9: 30 AM, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 AM, at St. Peter's Church, 620 Center Street, with the Rev. Sebastian C. Pierro, officiating. Burial will be in the Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Lewiston, NY.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Mike's memory to Heart, Love and Soul, 939 Ontario Street, Niagara Falls, NY 14305.
For directions to the funeral home, click the link above.
Messages of Sympathy
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Dear Brannen Family, Our deepest sympathy for your loss. May he rest in peace. Yours in Sympathy, Juan and Lisa
Written by Juan & Lisa Bouzas of Lewiston, NY
08/03/2008 11:28:41 AM
Dear Gus and the Brannen family, We write this with heavy hearts, Mike will be missed. Nancy and I, along with a great many, owe so much to Mike. His stories of growing up in Cabin Creek were a joy and an inspiration for both of us. With sympathy, Bill and Nancy Guetta
Written by Bill and Nancy Guetta of San Angelo, Texas
08/03/2008 1:25:01 PM
Dear Aunt Gus, Tim, Kelsey, Emily and I are so sorry to hear of the passing of Uncle Mike. We know that your heart is broken, however, know that he is in a better place. Wish that we could be with you. With all our love. JoLeni, Tim, Kelsey and Emily
Written by JoLeni Wince of Leesburg, VA
08/04/2008 12:50:12 PM
Dear Gus and family - Our prayers and thoughts are with you. Mike will never be forgotten as a friend, mentor, and inspiration. With sympathy, Bob & Rachael
Written by Bob & Rachael Hooper of Cleveland, Ohio
08/04/2008 1:32:51 PM
Dear Mrs. Brannen and Family, We are so saddened to hear of Mr. Brannen\'s passing. We know he was a great husband, father and grandfather, and he will be sadly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with you at this time and always. All our love and sympathy, Daniel Montani and family.
Written by Daniel Montani of Raynham, Massachusetts
08/04/2008 7:08:57 PM
To the Brannen Family, It was with a great sense of loss that I learned of Mr. Brannen\'s death. While there is nothing I can say that will ease your loss, I wanted you to know that I am grieving and thinking of you all. Mr. Brannen was an utmost member of the Niacet team; he founded and led a great organization. Mr. Brannen bought pleasure to everyone he met and will be sadly missed. Mr. Brannen will be sadly missed by everyone at Niacet. Sincerely, Lou Fahey
Written by Lou Fahey
08/04/2008 7:53:22 PM
Michael and Mary Ann, Our thoughts are with you today. He was a well accomplished gentlemen. I know you will miss him greatly. Love, The Farrows
Written by John and Irene Farrow of Moon Township, PA
08/05/2008 10:05:00 AM
We send our sincere condolences to Gus and the Brannen children. Mike and I had a number of mutual business friends which we often discussed.I also enjoyed playing golf with him at the Sea Island Golf Club. We will miss him.
Written by Pat and Bill Turbeville of St. Simons Island, Georgia
08/05/2008 6:47:16 PM
Dear Brennan Family: It is because of Mike\'s generosity that we were able to comfortably raise our family. His generosity and leadership will not be forgotten. May he rest in peace. Steven & Penny Maluchnik
Written by Steven & Penny Maluchnik of Niagara Falls, NY
08/06/2008 5:54:38 AM
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