John Walker Bracken III


Died May 23, 1984

John Bracken and I were classmates at Brooks School. We became close friends thanks to his good humor and open style. He was a natural leader, a real personality and pragmatic. He traveled with my parents and me to Acapulco several times where he enjoyed the Latino world and my fast speaking Spanish. I fortunately got to know his parents well along the way – it was easy to see where the genuine genes came from.

We naturally roomed together at Yale freshman year. We were joined by Gerrit Keator, Dan Adams and Tom Bissell sophomore year. While I went Fence Club, he was more serious minded and chose St. Anthony Hall where he thrived. We both happily majored in history with emphasis on the international.

After Yale, John went to Citibank thanks to my father’s introduction. He enjoyed about three successful years but his heart was not in banking. John had always had a strong interest in medicine — no thanks to a concussion which I believe lasted three months when he was around 12 years old. He changed career direction and pursued hospital administration. He obtained a government scholarship to the Vienna Medical School during the mid-sixties which, I believe, led him to some “spy” activity into Russia. He would only tell me that he regularly traveled behind the Iron Curtain for sightseeing … After his Vienna experience, he went back to Yale to obtain his MPH in Hospital Administration, graduating in 1971. He continued to work toward his DPH at Yale until moving to the health services administration faculty at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in 1973.

As I recall, John really enjoyed his Wisconsin work, applying his pragmatic business skills to the world of medicine. He traveled to Saudi Arabia regularly on some sort of medical joint venture with his Wisconsin Hospital. Most important, he finally felt challenged, motivated and energized. Unfortunately, he contracted leukemia during this time there, and, after a few remissions, he died on May 23, 1984.

John was married to March Durham (known as “Dot’s”) after Yale, and they had two boys, Andrew and John whom he adored. They visited Pollywog Farm, New Canaan with Dad a few times. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last. All his Yale roommates attended his funeral in Oxford, Maryland. He was finally happy what he was doing. I obviously still miss him but his influence lives on

—by George Moore