Milwaukee says goodbye to Joe Brehm


Photo: Kate Sherry

Although local businessman Joe Brehm passed away on April 3, his legacy of community service continues.

On Sunday, April 3, Milwaukee lost one of its finest.

Joe Brehm was the longtime owner and operator of This Is It, Wisconsin’s oldest and longest operating gay bar, opened by Joe’s mother June Brehm in 1968.

Joe’s unwavering support of Milwaukee’s LGBTQ community, causes and programs spanned decades and generations.  Joe is remembered for hosting the very first fundraiser for the Cream City Foundation at This Is It.  He also supported the PrideFest History Exhibit for many years.

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Joe Brehm served not only his community, but his country, as a veteran of the United States Air Force.

In recent weeks, Joe received a letter of commendation from United States Senator Tammy Baldwin and a honorary proclamation from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett proclaiming March 31, 2016 as Joe Brehm Day.

March 31, 2016 was proclaimed Joe Brehm Day by the Mayor of Milwaukee.

March 31, 2016 was proclaimed Joe Brehm Day by the Mayor of Milwaukee.

“Back when few people were willing to step up and be known as allies, Joe Brehm was proud to stand up for anyone in need,” said Scott Gunkel, Milwaukee Pride president.  “He welcomed all to the bar, without question, and genuinely cared for his customers. Joe went out of his way to build the strength, confidence and power of Milwaukee’s LGBTQ people when we needed it most. He will be very much missed.”

Milwaukee Pride has honored the life’s work of Joe Brehm with a charitable donation to Veterans For Diversity.

Veterans for Diversity is an inclusive, all-volunteer organization that is dedicated to helping and healing all United States veterans.  All donations directly benefit veterans and their families,  with the goal that no veteran is ever left behind.  Founded in 2008, the organization is headquartered in West Allis.

“Veterans For Diversity, Inc., in partnership with the Starfish Foundation, financially supports Healing Warrior Hearts, a free healing retreat for all veterans who served,” said Ellen Kozel, Veterans for Diversity, Inc. executive director. “Healing Warrior Hearts serves veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma, and other critical challenges. Your gift will support local veterans attending our Milwaukee area healing retreat this year.”

About Healing Warrior Hearts

Healing Warrior Hearts is dedicated to healing the emotional, moral and spiritual wounds of war.  The Starfish Foundation, a 501c3 charitable organization, ensures that all services are offered at no cost to military veterans and their families.