Father Francis X. Brett, a Diocese of Knoxville priest and former U.S. Army chaplain and teacher, passed away Dec. 18 at Alexian Village Retirement Center in Signal Mountain following a battle with cancer. He was 86.
A funeral Mass for Father Brett was celebrated Dec. 21 at St. Augustine Chapel at Alexian Village, with Bishop Richard F. Stika serving as the celebrant.
A military burial was being held in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where he was being interred on Chaplain’s Hill with his brother, Father Robert Raymond Brett, a U.S. Navy chaplain who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968 during the Battle of Khe Sanh.
Father Frank Brett was born March 11, 1931, in Pennsylvania and was educated in the Philadelphia Catholic school system. He graduated from St. Bernard’s College in Cullman, Ala., and he was ordained a priest by Bishop William L. Adrian in the Diocese of Nashville on May 23, 1959. Father Brett taught at Knoxville Catholic High School and held several pastoral assignments, including serving at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Knoxville, Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa, and St. Joseph Church in Norris.
Father Brett, who had earned a Ph.D., joined the U.S. Army in 1969 and volunteered to serve as a military chaplain in Vietnam. In 1970, Chaplain Brett received the Bronze Star for valor. In addition, Chaplain Brett also received the Legion of Merit, the Army Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal for his military service.
In 1998, Father Brett retired from the Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He continued to serve as a Diocese of Knoxville priest before relocating to Melbourne, Fla., when he retired as an active priest.
In addition to his brother, he was preceded in death by his parents, Francis and Margaret Brett of Philadelphia. He is survived by three sisters and one brother, Rosemary Brett Rouse of Colling dale, Pa., Anastasia Brett Lawlor of Glenolden, Pa., Catherine Coleman Branda of Bensalem, Pa., and John Coleman of Secane, Pa., as well as a number of nephews, nieces, grandnephews, and grandnieces.
The family requested that anyone who wants to honor Father Brett do so by donating to the Father Frank Brett Scholarship Fund in care of the Diocese of Knoxville, 805 S. Northshore Drive, Knoxville, TN 37919.