Local News Archive
Print Issue: January 16, 1997
Detroit Air Victim Buried From Holy Spirit
ATLANTA--A memorial Mass was celebrated Jan. 12 at Holy Spirit Church for Roger Bransford, active parishioner and supporter of the Marist School who was killed in a plane crash Jan. 9 near Detroit.
Bransford, 52, was a passenger on Comair Flight 3272 from Cincinnati, which crashed while approaching the Detroit airport during a snowstorm. All 29 people aboard were killed.
The husband of Ave Maria Bransford, he is the father of three sons, Jeffrey, Michael and Stephen, who graduated from the Marist School in 1987, 1988 and 1991 respectively. The managing director for the Americas for Watson Wyatt Worldwide investment consultants, Bransford was on a business trip.
Msgr. Edward Dillon, pastor of Holy Spirit and vicar general of the archdiocese, was the principal celebrant of the memorial Mass. Concelebrants included Father Conor Fitzgerald, pastor of St. Michael the Archangel Church, Canton; Father James Hartnett, SM, president of the Marist School; Marist faculty members Father Ralph Olek, SM, Father Francis Kissel, SM, and Father Ron Nikodem, SM; and Holy Spirit parochial vicars Father Thomas Hennessy and Father Adam Ozimek.
At Holy Spirit Church Bransford, along with his wife, was a minister of the Eucharist. He was also a song leader and worked with the parish chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
He was remembered for helping young people, both at Marist School, long after his own sons graduated, and as a coach in sports. From 1988-89 he served as president of the Marist booster club and for the past decade he was the public address announcer at home football games, even though his youngest son graduated from the school six years ago.
"He held just about every position there is in the booster club," said Father Hartnett. "It didn't matter if he was parking cars, collecting tickets or serving as president. He loved kids and this was how he chose to demonstrate his care and concern for them."
A graduate of the Delbarton School in Morristown, N.J., Cornell University and Columbia University graduate school in business, he served in the Marine Corps and held the rank of captain.
Holy Spirit parishioners, business colleagues, friends and members of the Marist School community filled Holy Spirit Church beyond capacity as they celebrated his life. His picture surrounded by flowers stood at the foot of the altar as family and friends said good-bye to a man who many said will be remembered for his "zest for life." Across from the pews reserved for family were a contingent of people from the pilgrimage that he and his wife took to the Holy Land with Archbishop John F. Donoghue in November 1995.
In his homily Msgr. Dillon said when a tragedy such as this occurs it is hard to understand how this can be a part of God's plan. He compared it to a piece of tapestry. When one looks at the back of a tapestry he sees only stitches and knots and the beauty of the work is hidden. Only when it is turned over can the beauty of the artist's creation be seen in its entirety. He told the congregation that the tragedies make it difficult for one to see the beauty of God's plan and that is why they are asked to turn to their faith.
After the liturgy numerous mourners approached the photo and were moved to tears. Many knelt before it, spending a moment in prayer. Others lit candles in the church sanctuary.
The family received hundreds of friends at a reception in the parish hall. After paying their respects to members of the family, mourners moved to a table which was filled with photographs documenting Bransford's life. Photos illustrated his love of his faith, family and friends and showed him riding a camel in the Holy Land, skiing with his wife, and hanging out with his sons. Plaques from the Marist School and Camp Dudley in New York State, the oldest boy's camp in the country, attested to his commitment to these organizations.
His son, Jeffrey, said his father and mother met in kindergarten in New Jersey, where they grew up in Short Hills and Summit. A baseball and football player in college, Bransford coached all three of his sons' soccer and baseball teams. After attending Camp Dudley as a child, a YMCA-affiliated camp near the New York-Vermont border, he was a leader there and eventually served on the board of directors. His sons continued the tradition established by their father and attended the camp. Jeffrey, a graduate of the University of Mississippi, is a businessman in Oxford, Miss. Michael and Stephen both graduated from Cornell University and are in graduate school.
"I am very proud of my Dad," Jeffrey Bransford said. "Though there are lots of tears, this has been more of a celebration than anything else."
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial contributions be made to the Marist School, 3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE, Atlanta 30319 or Camp Dudley, Westport, NY 12993.