Thomas R. Brigante

Psychologist, professor, athlete, jazz enthusiast

Confronted with several incurable illnesses, Claremont resident Thomas R. Brigante died of congestive heart failure on May 15, 2012. Age 80, Mr. Brigante had retired only last year from a long and fulfilling career as a psychologist.  

“He was a man of moral courage, never ending tenacity and commitment in his work and family life,” family expressed.  

A sturdy Buffolonian, Mr. Brigante grew up near Niagara Falls. He received his BA from the University of Buffalo, followed by an MA and PhD in psychology from Boston University and a postdoctoral degree from Harvard University.   

After several years working with the VA Hospital in Brockton, Massachusetts, he came to California in 1961 with his wife, Mary Ellen, and their 2 young children to serve as the director of the Claremont Colleges Counseling Center.  Five years later, he opened a private practice in Claremont as a psychotherapist, providing both individual and group therapy over the next 50 years.

Mr. Brigante’s research skills were highly respected, and he contributed numerous articles and chapters to social and community psychology publications. He also taught courses at Claremont Graduate University and the University of California, Los Angeles over the years.

A man who lived with gusto, Mr. Brigante enjoyed a wide range of pursuits throughout his lifetime, spending years building his skills in the activities he loved most. His love of music, especially jazz, was well known among his friends and family. Beginning with the trumpet as a boy, he went on to study the saxophone, cello and piano. One of his dreams was to become a professional trumpet player.  

“It was clear that he always carried a little bit of jazz legends Harry James and Louis Armstrong in his heart,” said his wife, Mary Ellen Brigante.  

Mr. Brigante also loved to play sports and be active.  He avidly pursued tennis, golf and skiing and, for many years, ran miles during his lunchtime. He also took great pleasure in watching basketball, a passion that began when his son, David, played on the Claremont High School basketball team.

Mr. Brigante’s wife wishes to share this poem she wrote of their life together:

Love’s Light: Lodestar of Our Lives

Your love’s light makes dark day go bright.
When I see your face,
strength from togetherness
showers life with light.
Your long life expresses your love’s power,
for sixty-four years,
the beacon of my life.    

Mr. Brigante is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen Brigante of Claremont; his daughter and son-in-law, Beth and Ken Higbee of Claremont; his son and daughter-in-law, David and Davia Brigante of Yamhill, Oregon; and his brother and sister-in-law, John Brigante and Francoise Genty of Paris, France.    

A celebration of life will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 1, 2012 in the Cultivar Garden at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Hors d’oeuvres will be served. Ongoing tram service from the parking lot to the Cultivar Garden will be provided beginning at 11:30 a.m. Casual attire is suggested for this outdoor occasion. For more information, please call 626-3169.


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