Obituary: Alice Tobin Branagan

Thu, 08/16/2012 - 6:37pm

Alice Tobin Branagan, who was born September 13, 1909, in Elgin, Illinois, to Theresa Zimmermann Tobin and John R. Tobin, MD, peacefully passed away on July 27 at United Hebrew Geriatric Center in New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 102. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Franklyn P. Branagan.

Mrs. Branagan is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Kathleen Mulshine Saxon and Peter Saxon of Old Greenwich, Conn., and Block Island, and her son Barry J. Branagan and his wife Patricia Hughes of Casa Grande, Ariz. She also leaves six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren: Mary Kathleen Ross Lemle and her husband Jim of Laguna Beach, Cali., and her three children Elizabeth, Sara and William; Brendan and Suzanne Mulshine of Chesterton, IN., and their three children Brendan, Kate and Grace; Christopher and Michelle Mulshine and their three children Ryan, Colin, and Leila; Tobin and Leigh Mulshine and their two children Brooke and Chloe; and Sean M. Branagan, and James T. and Martha Branagan, of Thousand Oaks, Cali. She was sister to the late doctors Paul, Jim and John Tobin, all of whom practiced in the Chicago, IL area.

Alice, a graduate of Elgin High School, won the Illinois State Contest held in Bloomington for ‘Best Contralto Soloist’ in her senior year, 1927. She graduated from St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN., with a BA in Music and Voice Theory (Cum Laude ). Her operatic debut came in 1934 with the Chicago Civic Opera Company, appearing in several operas including’‘Tosca,” “Andre Chenier” and “Tannhauser.” She was the soloist with the “Chicago Symphony of the Air.” This was followed by a series of radio and concert appearances throughout the Midwest. She was a charter member of the Elgin Little Theatre, starring in dramatic and musical productions from 1931 to 1937.

In 1937 she came to New York City and appeared for a season of operetta and musical Comedy with the Schubert Organization at Jones’ Beach, which included “On Your Toes,” “Sweethearts,” “Roberta” and others. She then had the leading role with the Touring Company ( Schuberts) in “Blossom Time.” The following year she was hired by the American Lyric Theatre and had her initial appearance on Broadway in “The Devil and Daniel Webster” by Benet and Moore as well as “ Oh! Susanna” at the Martin Beck Theatre. The same year she appeared at Radio City Music Hall for several pre-movie productions. She was the alto soloist for ‘The Broadway Tabernacle’ on 56th and Broadway.

In 1940 she had the leading role in “The Devil Takes A Whittler” with the New York Theatre Guild in Westport, Conn. She was the alto soloist at the Presbyterian Church in New Rochelle, NY. She met and married Franklyn ‘Mick’ Branagan and had two children, Kathleen and Barry. She returned to Broadway with Rodgers and Hammerstein in the leading role of Nettie in “Carousel” and continued until the show drew to the end of its’ New York run. She was a recording artist with the RCA Victor Orchestra giving concerts and benefits around the NY area.

In 1947 she joined the faculty of the College of New Rochelle, teaching voice and music appreciation. She became a soloist for The Reformed Church in Bronxville, N.Y. and Temple Sinai in Mt. Vernon, N.Y. In 1953 she received her mastsers in music and music education from Columbia University. She appeared as Miss Peacham in the bicentennial production of “The Beggar’s Opera” at Columbia’s Brandon Matthews Theatre.

In 1959 she joined the faculty of Iona Preparatory School teaching their Glee Club and also accepted a position as assistant professor of music at Iona College. As the first woman professor to be hired at Iona, she continued to teach until her retirement as a Professor Emeritus in 1979. She was the soloist at St John’s Episcopal Church in Yonkers, N.Y. from 1968 to 1984. She was the soloist at Sinai Temple in Roslyn, N.Y. from 1960 to 1975.

After her retirement, she continued to teach voice at CNR and Iona as well as private lessons at her home studio and in Manhattan. She also taught for six years at Manhattan School of Music. She continued teaching private voice lessons at her apartment in Willow Towers Assisted Living until she was 99 and became a resident of United Hebrew Geriatric Center.

She was a beautiful woman inside and out, who gave selflessly of her talents and abilities. Her example to all was awesome and unforgettable. She will be remembered and missed with great love.

A memorial mass and celebration of her life will take place on September 8 at 11 a.m. at Chapel of the Holy Family in the castle at the College of New Rochelle. She will be interred at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Elgin, IL, at an 11 a.m. graveside ceremony on September 13, her 103rd birthday. Please e-mail with any questions or concerns. In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the United Hebrew Geriatric Center ,391 Pelham Road, New Rochelle, NY 10805.