John Braun, antiwar activist and former priest, dies at 89
For 45 years, John and Marie Braun were inseparable, as a couple and as socially concerned Catholics and antiwar activists, protesting war, weapons production and U.S. politicians who supported military interventions.
“They were probably one of the most compatible couples I’ve met in my life,” said Lisa Kupcho, a close family friend. “They worked so well together.”
John Braun, 89, died of pneumonia Nov. 28, in St. Louis Park. His wife said he suffered from dementia.
“He was a really gentle, lovely man,” said Sarah Martin, a board member of Women Against Military Madness (WAMM). “I don’t think he had an ornery bone in his body.”
The couple attended hundreds of demonstrations over the years, and were part of the group that began the weekly Wednesday afternoon antiwar protests on the Lake Street-Marshall Avenue bridge.
“He was a quiet person but very strong,” said Polly Mann, a founder of WAMM. “He was 100 percent for peace and against war.”
Marie Braun estimated she and her husband were arrested at demonstrations about a dozen times across the country, from Minnesota protests over weapons manufacturing at Honeywell and Alliant Tech to Washington, D.C., where they protested the war in Afghanistan in front of the White House.
“Sometimes we took turns getting arrested,” Marie Braun said, because of the responsibilities of raising their children. “Most of the time we got arrested together.”
Twice, she said, they were sentenced to two days in jail.
John Braun was born in 1928 in Spring Hill, Minn., 40 miles west of St. Cloud. He graduated from St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, went to St. John’s Seminary and was ordained a priest in 1958. He served as pastor at several small parishes, taught English and religion at Cathedral High School in St. Cloud, and became director of religious education for the Diocese of St. Cloud.
He met Marie in 1960 when she was organizing Young Christian Worker groups, a parish-centered social action organization.
“In 1971, he left the ministry and came to Chicago and asked me to marry him,” said Marie, who was working for a federal housing program for the state of Illinois. John got a master’s degree of social work at George Williams College near Chicago, they were married in 1972 and moved to Minneapolis in 1973.
They joined Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, later became active in WAMM, and helped form the Twin Cities Campaign to End Sanctions (on Iraq).
In 1979, they started the Counseling Clinic in Brooklyn Center, providing outpatient mental health and chemical dependency treatment. They sold the clinic in 1995.
“I do hope to be able to say at the end of my life that I did the best I could to make this a better world,” John Braun wrote in a journal for his grandson, Jack Goepfrich, about three years ago. “Sometimes I failed, but at least I tried.”
Steve McKeown, the local Veterans for Peace coordinator, said he and John were among eight protesters, including Marie, put on trial in Hennepin District Court in 1985 for a sit-in at Honeywell.
The protesters chose John to give their closing arguments. “He pretty much put Honeywell on trial,” said McKeown. “He was eloquent.” A jury convicted them anyway.
In addition to his wife, John Braun is also survived by a sister, Martha Bray; a daughter, Becca Braun; and a son, Matt Braun; all of Edina, and five grandchildren. Services are set for noon Saturday at St. Joan of Arc Church, 4537 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis, with a gathering at 11 a.m.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224