Obituary: J. Brian Sheehan
J. Brian Sheehan, of Bloomfield, died on Sept. 4, 2022. He was 73.
Mr. Sheehan was born in Boston in 1948 to Elizabeth Nagle and Dr. John C. Sheehan. He attended Yale University, where he was admitted into a selective five-year program in the African studies department. As part of that program, he lived for a year in Mongu, Zambia, where he taught English at St. John’s College.
After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1971, he enrolled in law school at New York University, earning his juris doctor in 1974. Following law school, he enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Columbia University, where he was awarded a doctorate in anthropology in 1981. Mr. Sheehan’s career was multidimensional, often reflecting his interests in both anthropology and the law. As an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, he taught urban anthropology and legal anthropology.
At Latrobe University in Melbourne, Australia, where he was a lecturer in the Department of Legal Studies, his course titles included Aborigines and the Law and Legal Anthropology. He was also an adjunct assistant professor at William Paterson University, Fairleigh Dickinson University and Ramapo College.
Mr. Sheehan was a producer of the 1996 documentary film “A Leap of Faith,” about an integrated school in Belfast, Northern Ireland, that enrolled both Protestant and Catholic children; the film was a Grand Jury Prize nominee at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival.
After leaving academia, he devoted himself to work that helped the disadvantaged. He handled grants research and writing for the prevention of crime and homelessness; represented mental health clients in commitment hearings for the New Jersey Department of the Public Advocate, and worked for the Mental Health Association of Morris County.
Since 2017, Mr. Sheehan served as a pro bono attorney in the area of immigration law, for the American Friends Service Committee and Immigration Justice Campaign, and, most recently, for KIND, in Newark.
As befitting a scholar of anthropology, he loved to travel and explore the world, a fact reflected by the friendships he maintained with people scattered around the globe. While still in high school, he studied abroad in France. As a young man, he hitchhiked across the country.
He taught in Australia and conducted research in South Africa. And while working on “A Leap of Faith,” he twice brought his young family to Ireland for extended summer stays. In his later years he remained adventurous, traveling to Montreal, Mexico, Spain and China prior to the pandemic.
Mr. Sheehan was best known for his kindness, his sense of humor and his integrity. He loved to laugh and make others laugh, and he passed his dry wit and penchant for wry observations on to his sons, of whom he was most proud.
He is survived by his three sons, Nicholas (Rhiannon), Matthew (Kelly) and Daniel; his brother, the Rev. Myles J. Sheehan, S.J., M.D.; his former spouse, Noreen Connolly; his niece, Jessica Jacobs, and four grandchildren, Breandán, Catherine, Wesley and Edward Sheehan. He was predeceased by his father, John; his mother, Elizabeth, and his sister, Maureen.
A funeral Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Victory in Centerville, Massachusetts, on Sept. 12.
In lieu of flowers, a donation in Mr. Sheehan’s memory may be made to KIND, supportkind.org/get-involved/give-to-kind.
Arrangements were by Doane, Beal, & Ames Funeral Home of Hyannis, Massachusetts.