Cover photo for Marilyn Alice Bresnan's Obituary
Marilyn Alice Bresnan Profile Photo
1955 Marilyn 2022

Marilyn Alice Bresnan

November 27, 1955 — October 15, 2022

Marilyn Alice Bresnan, 66, of Knoxville, Tennessee, peacefully left this life on October 15, 2022, minutes before a red sunrise. Red was her favorite color, as she felt it represented strength and independence. Her children surrounded her and held her hands. (We credit her for Tennessee’s historic win over Alabama that evening. The sunrise was also orange, for anyone questioning her allegiance.) Marilyn was born in 1955 in Queens, New York as the youngest and only daughter of Alice A. Bresnan and John J. Bresnan’s five children. She attended Holy Family School and graduated from Saint Agnes Academic High School in 1973 and Saint John’s University in 1977. Marilyn cherished her youth, especially family Christmases, summers in Speculator and Barnegat Bay, prom with her brother, Jerry, cruises with her parents, and mischief with her girlfriends, Nancy and Alice. She adored her father and was endlessly proud of her brothers and her multigenerational family history with the Fire Department of New York. Some of Marilyn’s fullest friendships included her theater buddies from Saint John’s University Chappell Players; her New Jersey crew, with whom she created special joint family traditions and shared many laughs (who could forget the Bernstein-Weinstein First Holy Communion?); and her dear “sister”-cousin, Nancy. When Marilyn found herself and her family in east Tennessee in 2003, this New Yorker was pleased to learn that folks around here waved with all five of their fingers – a joke she made often. Marilyn wore many hats (editor, executive director, personal chef, community liaison), passionately served various causes (refugee resettlement, domestic violence recovery, girls’ empowerment), and recently retired from the Girl Scouts – a full-circle moment for her, having been a Girl Scout herself. She was proud to share this connection with her granddaughter, Ellie. Marilyn was an extraordinary cook who transformed dinner tables into works of art, no matter the occasion. Christmases, St. Patrick’s Days, birthdays, study groups, first meetings with one of her children’s new partners – they all deserved celebration and fanfare. But Thanksgiving was her crowning moment each year. She welcomed to her table her family, in-laws, colleagues, children’s friends, and people who would have otherwise been alone, and in the round-the-table ritual of sharing gratitude, her food and generosity always made the list. She had been so excited to welcome her unborn granddaughter, Marley, to her Thanksgiving table this year. Above all else, Marilyn’s most accomplished role was as a mother and nana. She showed up, always. At noisy swim meets, all-day horse shows, 4 AM figure skating lessons, golf lessons, midnight college crises, graduations, weddings, work milestones, childcare, bad days, and good days, Marilyn derived joy from knowing her children were safe, supported, and seen. She created magic and fun and – let’s be real – drama. And she was loved for all of it. She held her children accountable to being the best versions of themselves, and she was the glue. Countless loved ones will remember Marilyn, Mom, Ma, Mama B, Nana, Auntie, Mah, Mari, Mari Girl, Princess, the Bresnan matriarch as a warm, compassionate, generous, beautiful, and one-of-a-kind woman with an enveloping hug and hearty laugh who loved deeply, a fantastic sense of humor, told captivating stories (embellished, of course), wrote beautifully, texted with one too many exclamation marks and emojis, wore red nail polish, loved period dramas and eggs benedict and black coffee and autumn, and opened her door and refrigerator to numerous “adopted” children (i.e., her children’s friends). She made every day an occasion. And the world is lonelier without her. Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents; brothers, Jay and Tom Bresnan; sister-in-law, Penny Bresnan; nephew, Christian Bresnan; aunts and uncles, including Tom Mullin; and sweet pup, Molly. She is survived by her five children, Brian J. Bresnan, Lauren A. Bernstein, Erin E. Bernstein, Alanna P. Bernstein, and Todd H. Bernstein; daughter-in-law, Kayla Bernstein; granddaughters, Ellie Bresnan and Marley Bernstein (due November 2022); step-granddaughter, Emma Bowen; brothers, Jerry and Bill Bresnan; sisters-in-law, Kathy and Annie Bresnan; cousin whom she considered her sister, Nancy Mullin; many cousins, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews; and beloved cat, Ruah. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to honor Marilyn’s passion for strong women and girls: YWCA Knoxville and the Tennessee Valley (https://ywcaknox.com/) and Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians (https://www.girlscoutcsa.org/). (Her children are also accepting donations of Thin Mints.) There will be a wake from 5 to 7 PM on Friday, October 21, 2022 at Mynatt Funeral Home (Halls Chapel location) at 4131 E. Emory Road, Knoxville, Tennessee 37938. A funeral mass will be held at 10 AM on Saturday, October 22, 2022 at Saint Albert the Great Catholic Church at 7200 Brickey Lane, Knoxville, Tennessee 37918, followed by a burial at Norris Memorial Gardens Cemetery (behind the Museum of Appalachia). After the funeral on Saturday, Marilyn’s children will host a joyful celebration of life with music, food, and storytelling in the afternoon at Waterside Marina at 408 Dock Road, Andersonville, Tennessee 37705. If Marilyn is bringing people together, it has to be a party, after all. The family requests that you wear red in her honor. (Ma, we know you’ve finally got your toes in the water and ass in the sand. Don’t get up; we got it.)
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Service Schedule

Past Services

Wake

Friday, October 21, 2022

5:00 - 7:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Funeral Mass

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Starts at 10:00 am (Eastern time)

St. Albert the Great Catholic Church

7200 Brickey Ln, Knoxville, TN 37918

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Burial Following Mass

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Norris Memorial Gardens

128 Alpine Dr, Paramus, NJ 07652

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Celebration of Life Following Burial

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Waterside Marina

, TN

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