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Honoring the life of Jodi Brabazon

“It was a sad day when we heard of her passing,” said Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon at the event, “but it's a blessed day here at St. John's where you have a bench with her name and her honor for anybody in the community to come and reflect in this garden here.”

Philadelphia City Councilmember Bobby Henon (left) poses for a picture with Billy (center) and Alice (right) Bland, both of whom were raised by their aunt, Jodi Brabazon. | Photo by Tom Beck.

City Councilman Bobby Henon was on hand at St. John Cantius Church Saturday morning to pay tribute to the late Nancy “Jodi” Brabazon, a Bridesburg resident and Assistant Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 120, who lost her life to COVID-19 over the summer. Henon, with the help of the church, the Boy Scout Troop and the Bridesburg Civic Association, teamed up to dedicate a bench in Brabazon’s memory. The bench was placed in the church’s garden along Almond Street. 

“It was a sad day when we heard of her passing,” said Henon at the event, “but it’s a blessed day here at St. John’s where you have a bench with her name and her honor for anybody in the community to come and reflect in this garden here.” 

Henon also submitted a citation on behalf of City Council, which honored the “life and legacy” of Brabazon and offered condolences to her friends, family and the community.

Billy Bland displays the City Council citation that formally recognized the life and legacy of Nancy “Jodi” Brabazon while Alice Bland holds up an iPhone showing their brother, Joey, who is currently stationed in Japan with the U.S. Navy. | Photo by Tom Beck.

“Over years at the Bridesburg Civic Association, asking for her help at different times to volunteer and come out to tree lighting, Jodi was always there with her hand up,” said Fred Becker, president of the Bridesburg Civic Association. “I got into the civic association to be a volunteer for my neighborhood, and Jodi is one of the people that I emulate.”

Brabazon was widely lauded in the community for stepping in to gain custody of four of her nieces and nephews – Faith, 20; Joey, 19; and twins Billy and Alice, 16 – when times got tough for their mother.

When Billy, who was diagnosed with ADHD, struggled with finding an outlet for his energy, Jodi’s cousin Ken Farrell suggested he get involved with Boy Scouts, an organization Farrell had been involved with since a young age. 

“I recommended it,” Farrell said. “She knew that I would take him under my wing and take care of him.”

Soon after Billy, who later became the troop’s youngest ever Eagle Scout at age 15, joined the group, Troop 120 faced a leadership crisis.

“Troop 120 was actually going to fold,” said the troop’s scout master, Bob Gazinski. “They needed a leader.”

Gazinski was with another BSA troop at the time, but he decided to make the switch over to Troop 120, but only with one condition.

“I came back as a leader and Jodi said she’d help me” as Assistant Scoutmaster, Gazinski said. “I wasn’t going to do it unless she did it with me.”

At first, Brabazon’s interest was a bit puzzling.

“She wasn’t an outdoorsy person,” said Billy. 

But with time, Jodi learned to enjoy Troop 120’s frequent camping trips. However, this was largely because she was able to customize the trips to her liking. She turned the camping trips into “glamping” trips, according to Farrell.

“Most camping trips consist of eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese,” he said. “But Jodi made it a mission that she was never going to eat hot dogs and mac and cheese. They’d make deep fried turkeys. She’d have a Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of summertime.”

In addition to helping out with the Boy Scouts, Jodi was active with the Bridesburg Civic Association, regularly volunteering with food donations. 

“Jodi volunteered for a lot of our events that we had over the years,” said Becker. “She never said no to anything.”

Billy, who was raised without his father, learned almost everything from Jodi.

“Even when I lived with my mother I didn’t have a dad,” he said. “My aunt stepped into that role and taught me a lot of things that mostly would’ve been taught by my dad, like how to shave, fix electrical things and work on cars. Everything I’ve learned that’s been handy that could help me in life, I learned from her.”

Alice, however, considered Jodi her “mother figure.”

“She would give you the shirt off her back,” she said. “She cared about everybody.”

Billy said that some of his fondest memories of Jodi were on camping (or, perhaps, glamping, if you prefer) trips.

“She developed a passion for going out for those weekends where you’re in the middle of the woods and there’s nothing for you to do except start a little fire, sit there and talk about your life,” he said. “We made a habit of sitting by the firepit each night.”

“As we got to know her and we spent more time with her, it was obvious how much Jodi cared about the kids, and how much she cared about scouting in general,” said Nathan Burvainis of Troop 120. “She was always looking for opportunities for kids, keeping on top of them and making sure they got their work done, providing activities for them in our troop meetings. She definitely had her hand in guiding the youth in what they learned and what they did.”

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