Over the course of our lives, we each develop a reputation. Through the diverse interactions we have with others, over time, opinions about us form and shape our reputation. Eventually, opinions become a general belief that may precede us when we meet new people. We become known by our reputation and it is a big part of our legacy.
To purposefully create and maintain a great reputation is nearly impossible. One must be honest, kind, trustworthy, knowledgeable, respectful, and fair to virtually everyone he or she meets. Former employee, Jim O’Neill, built a great reputation by naturally exhibiting all these attributes throughout his long career at Brennan. We're honored to share Jim's story with you.
After graduating from Lansing’s St. George Catholic High School in 1967, Jim landed his first job: loading railroad cars in Cedar Rapids. Mike Manning, then a superintendent at Brennan, recruited Jim to join our team in late 1968.
Jim’s first job at Brennan was as a general laborer on a bridge project in Waterloo, IA. There, he worked under the tutelage of Ralph Brennan and superintendent Urban Strub, beginning a long and industrious career in pile driving. Soon, Jim was involved in some of our biggest jobs at the time, including the Dubuque Flood Wall project in 1970 and the nearly catastrophic Prairie Bridge project in 1974. On the latter job, Jim was working in a cofferdam when ice-loading caused an adjacent cofferdam to collapse and sent crew member Donnie Hammel Jr. into the frigid waters of the Mississippi River.
Most of Jim’s jobs took place along the Upper Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, but as Brennan expanded, he traveled where he was needed. He worked with the Specialty division (Underwater Services group) to raise a bridge in Wall, SD, with the Dredge division (Environmental group) during the 1993 flood to restore the levees in Missouri.
After spending 43 years at Brennan, it’s difficult to fathom the breadth of impact Jim made along the Upper Mississippi River. He could travel the river and point out countless barge terminals, mooring structures, power plants, bridges, sheet pile walls, and docks that he worked on during the course of his career. However, his reputation—developed through his interactions with others—may have made the largest impact on Brennan.
Jim shared his positive attitude, expertise, and kindness with everyone. He retired in 2011, but his great reputation remains well-known throughout the company.
When asked about how he would describe his career at Brennan, Jim’s answer reflected his infectious, positive attitude:
From all of us at Brennan, Jim, thank you!
“From my viewpoint, excellent. I liked to get around to the different towns, met a pile of nice guys working with Brennan. I was always treated good.
What better could you want?”