Remembering Captain John Brandi

john driving boat
Captain John Brandi

I remember the exact moment I met Captain John. I was planning a trip to St. John (well before News of St. John came along) and was looking for something special to do while on island. After reading countless fantastic reviews online, I decided to spend the day out on Palm Tree Charters and booked the trip through a woman who would soon become one of the most special people in my life – Island Sue.

The day was January 30, 2012. I didn’t know what to expect, so I picked out what I thought was the perfect day charter outfit – a striped strapless dress, a large brimmed black hat and pretty big wedges. (I now know how silly I must have looked.) I strolled up the dock and upon meeting John immediately asked him if I had dressed the part.

“I think of that day often,” John wrote to me on November 24. “If I could transfer a movie from my brain, I would show you. I can remember saying, ‘you gotta lose the hat and shoes.’”

Captain John later told me he knew that moment that we’d be pals for life. He was right.

I’m going to let you in on a little News of St. John secret here… When I first took over the blog back in April 2013, I didn’t even live on island. I lived in Connecticut, held a full-time corporate job there and only visited the island every few months. News of St. John was simply something I did at night for fun. Soon, however, my visits became more frequent, every other month, then every month, and eventually, I had my own place on island. During my early days at News of St. John, Captain John served as my friend and confidant. I’d share gossip with him, bounce story ideas off of him, and he would give me his honest opinion even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I still can’t believe he didn’t want to be part of mine and Tom Larson’s St. Johnopoly game… 🙂

Captain John and Island Sue adopted me in a way, not that they had much of a choice. 🙂 With my family and friends often back in Connecticut, John and Sue would meet me for drinks or simply to keep me company. Sue and I would chat about our love of St. John and she always encouraged me to follow my dreams. You see, Sue lived on island for a full two years before John joined her … much like the situation I was in at the time.

I soon dubbed John my “Island Dad” and Sue my “Island Mom.” Sue was quick to point out that she was more like a big sister. I agreed, but said it was odd that my dad was married to my sister. But I went with it. 🙂

John had been complaining about back pain for a good part of 2014. He attributed it to being knocked down when the Palma Bella, his beloved Palm Tree Charters boat, hit a big swell out near Peter Island one day on charter. Sadly, John learned back in October that there was more to the pain than the big swell. He had cancer. I was devastated. We all were devastated.

John began treatment in Florida and soon came back to St. John where he received treatment over in St. Thomas. The daily trips were grueling, he and Sue said, but he was happy with the facility and always spoke highly of his doctors. I always held out hope that John would get better and be back on the water where he belonged.

On November 24, I learned John sold Palm Tree Charters. I immediately sobbed. That’s when the reality of John’s situation really set in. I called him a short while later and spoke with him while he was undergoing a chemotherapy treatment on St. Thomas. Once again, John praised the doctors, but sadly confirmed that his days on the water were over. His bones were too brittle, he told me.

Over the next several months, John had good days and John had bad days. We took advantage of the good days and hopped in my Jeep for some island exploring. John may not have been able to get to his favorite spots like Pirate’s Bight, the Willy T or the Soggy Dollar Bar, but I was going to do my best to get him as close as possible. So we drove. And we drove some more.

We soon learned that the bench out past Concordia is a great spot to check out Norman Island. It was on that bench, as we were looking out toward Ram Head and into the Caribbean Sea, that John told me about meeting the love of his life, Island Sue, back on Long Island roughly 40 years ago.

John and I quite possibly could have driven up and down every road on this island together. We drove down to Privateer Point for the first time together and quickly realized it was an amazing place to check out the Indians, the Willy T and Pirate’s Bight – three spots near and dear to John’s heart. We stared at those places for what seemed like forever. Those are memories I will treasure forever.

John and I loved to cruise along North Shore Road, stopping at many of the beaches and overlooks along the way, as we checked out the megayachts and talked about all of the fun we had over at the Soggy Dollar Bar, especially that one time we snuck over for a few Presidentes and shots of Cruzan when we were supposed to be photographing St. John by boat – sorry Sue!

As John grew weaker, our road trips ended and instead we’d hang out in his living room and shared stories about our love of St. John. We agreed that St. John is quite possibly the best place on earth.

John, Sue and I had a great day together last Friday. We hung out in the living room with his two cats, Buzz and Sedi, and watched videos of John and Sue dancing at last year’s Food Fair. Nothing made John happier than dancing beside Island Sue. We watched a video that his grandson Luke sent to him that morning – that truly made John smile – and we watched videos about St. John. We chatted about lots of stuff including our island’s desperate need for rain and gossiped a bit of course. 🙂

John told me last Friday he wished he could take a magic pill, so he could feel better again. I would have given anything to make that happen for him.

Over the past week, John grew weaker. When I stopped by on Wednesday, I told him I was happy to see him. I got a faint “you too” out of him and that truly made me smile.

Sadly John passed away early this morning with his beloved Island Sue by his side. Beside the love of his life, Miss Island Sue, John leaves a son John, grandson Luke, daughter-in-law Debbie and sister Susan..

John was one of the kindest, most remarkable men I’ve ever known. I will truly miss him. This island will truly miss him.

john sue food fair
Captain John & Island Sue at last year’s Food Fair
john sue carnival
Captain John & Island Sue at last year’s Festival parade
Captain John at Pirate's Bight
Captain John at Pirate’s Bight
Captain John on one of our Jeep adventures
Captain John on one of our Jeep adventures
Me and my fantastic Island Dad at the Willy T
Me and my fantastic Island Dad at the Willy T
A little love note I left for Captain John years ago...
A little love note I left for Captain John years ago…

77 thoughts on “Remembering Captain John Brandi”

  1. A great tribute to a man I admired. He wouldn’t remember me but whenever I was his guest, John was not only a great Captain and guide but also a great friend. This is why he was so successful and well loved. It’s a pretty regular occurrence for me to remind my wife that someday I want to be just like Captain John Brandi. His love of the islands, ocean, and life in general was infectious and he will be missed. All the best to Sue and family.

  2. My thoughts and prayers are with you Jenn. I just cannot imagine what you are going through, but as usual, your words are absolutely beautiful and a beaming memorial to an amazing man. I have no doubt your Island Dad is smiling down on you and so very proud of you. He will continue to watch down on you from above.
    Sending love and prayers your way!

  3. Jenn,
    We feel and share your pain.John was a once in a lifetime kinda guy.Brian and I were Blessed to get to know him,and honored to call him and Sue “friend”. I gave him the Phillies tickets that he used to take his son and grandson to the game where the great picture of he and the Phillie Phanatic ,having some fun was taken.I’m sad that he has left us,but I am so very happy that I had the opportunity to know and love him.

  4. Sorry for your and Island Sue’s loss. Sounds like he was and is St John, My wife Sue and I also love the island and will be there in a few weeks and will say hi if we spot either of you

  5. I just finished reading your beautiful tribute to John Brandi. I didn’t know him personally but I feel like I knew him from the different stories he shared and other people shared on social media. I remember seeing his drone videos. His spirit will always live in the islands.

  6. Devastating news. He espoused that gem of an island and the life style we aspire to for several weeks a year. He will not be forgotten. Captain John, shipmate.

  7. St. John is such a loving and wonderful place. With the passing of Captain John it is a little bit lonely today. I will miss all of his stories that were online over the years. So enjoyable! Sorry for the loss of a good man.

  8. That was a Very Nice read about an amazing man.. Capt John was always our “Captain” & was there when Lisa & I got engaged @ Little Sandy Spit… He also was there when our daughter Kayla & Devon were engaged @ One Love… We have posted some pictures & will continue to treasure every moment that we had the pleasure of spending with him…

  9. I feel like the world has lost a treasure today. I never met the man, but we emailed half a dozen times about STJ things and he bought a bunch of my RSR merch to give away on his charters. He will be missed by many he gave life-long memories to. Thank you for the news.

  10. Beautiful tribute, Jenn. Capt John was a great man and to know him was to be his friend. He remembered people, including my wife and I, long after being charter guests with him. He was a huge spokesman for the place we all love and will be greatly missed by many. Our love and prayers to Sue and family…and his huge island family, too.


  11. I am so sorry to hear this news. I corresponded with Captain John frequently sharing the love of the islands. I also love to following him on Facebook and all the fun pictures and treasures he would share. He will be very missed .

  12. Thank You Jenn so much for sharing the sadness of your (and Island Sue’s) loss.
    As Jo Ann said above, it was tearfully emotional just reading your eloquent memories
    to your dearest friendship – even though I never met Captain John and have not yet met you or Island Sue. Your heartbreakingly beautiful tribute is one that will be treasured for years to come. I’ll keep you all in my thoughts and prayers in the days & weeks ahead as you navigate these difficult times.

  13. Thank you Jenn, for sharing this with us. I’m sure it was hard to write such sad news, but happy that you have some great memories and stories to tell. Please pass along to Sue all the love from friends known and unknown.
    Booking a charter with Cap’t John was on my agenda to do one day. But as we all know, sometimes “one day” doesn’t happen.
    Sail on Cap’t John! We’ll look for you along the horizon.

  14. Tears. What a beautiful tribute Jen. I will miss him. What a wonderful man. Sending love and hugs to you, Sue and all of his family.

  15. What a touching tribute… I’m sorry I never met the man, (do to my own poor planning while on island.) Somehow though I felt like I knew him, maybe it was that we are both from Long Island… but likely his charm and zest for life which was even infectious through his posts on the internet whether it be via the forum or his web page. I did meet this wonderful, happy, full of life, woman while staying at the Westin only to find out later she was Island Sue… thought and prayers to Johns friend and family, RIP Cap’t

  16. I am so saddened by this news. He was the best. The best guy. The best captain. The best representative of St. John. He will be dearly missed.

  17. John was a great captain. Went out with him many times and it was always great being in his company. The Island’s just lost a great friend.

  18. I am saddened to hear of the passing of John Brandi. I will never get to meet Capt. John in person now. I have followed him on facebook and his name has came up on other St. John sites I am connected to. It appears everyone who has met him loved him. While I personally didn’t know him I hoped he would wasn’t as sick as I feared when I found out he sold his company. I knew he was a great asset to the Island of St. John, along with his wife Island Sue.

    From watching some of the videos he has taken I could tell he had a wonderful personality and a passion for the things he did and a passion for life in general.

    So RIP to the great, the awesome, Mr. John Brandi. I will have to wait until I get to Heaven to meet you now.

  19. John Brandi was a good friend and I always enjoyed seeing him on St John or on the water. Forever positive and happy and just fun to be around. We have lost a good
    man who carried no pretensions. He just loved what he was doing and even more loved sharing a beautiful day on the water with others. Best charter captain hands down. Next time on White Bay I am going to look out and offer a little toast to Captain
    John – till we meet again my friend.

  20. My heart is absolutely breaking. John was an inspiration to us all. A nicer, kinder man you would never meet. St. John will not be the same without him. We went out with him many times and he was always so excited to see us and show us around. He always told us he had the best job in the world!! He will be missed!

  21. It is with great sarrow we learn of John’s passing. We will keep him in our hearts forever and remember all the great adventures with him. he and Sue were the best St John gave to all those who had the wonderful opportunity to know.

  22. Our family is truly saddened by the loss of our friend John. While we only saw Captain John a couple times a year, we kept up with him on Facebook and we’re looking forward to seeing him on our next visit. Our two sons practically grew up on the Palm Bella. We are all feeling this loss. Sue our thoughts are with you.
    Mark, Laura, Logan & Finn

  23. I have never met John or Sue, but have followed them through many sites, such as this one and a common theme I keep hearing is that they are very kind and giving people. I salute them and will strive continually to be a bit kinder everyday. God Bless John and Sue!

  24. I first met Capt John in 2007. It was just like talking to your best friend each and every time. Your tribute was so poignant and so perfectly descriptive of the Capt John I knew. The world is a better place because of him. RIP Good Capt. We love you Sue.

  25. RIP Capt John….the man who always was ready to lend a hand or piece of advice to a novice seaman in the waters of STJ/STT like me…. here is a prayer for him…
    I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky
    And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by
    And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sails shaking
    And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking…..
    God’s speed Capt John Brandi, and a stiff wind at your back……

  26. so beautifully said …. I read it out loud to my husband and had to stop frequently. Your relationship was obviously very special and your tribute poignantly touching. Please take care of Island Sue for us ❤️

  27. I don’t know where to start, John and Sue were a breath of fresh air in Marblehead, they gave my 13 year old son a job and a mentor when he needed a direction. He once sent my young son with an empty large pot up the street to Eat Your Heart Out Bakery for a “pot of steam”. His dream was St. John and he lived it. My heart and sympathy to Sue and his family.

  28. What fond memories we have of our bvi rum tour with captain John 2 years ago …… from his in depth love of St. John and its history to his insight to creating a wonderful guest experience he was one of a kind. The connections he forged and his amazing photography were uniquely special.
    God speed.

  29. My deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers to Capt John’s family and friends. There are few men that had the love of the sea he exemplified and he will be truly missed by anyone who knew him.

  30. He was the highlight of our vacation– not the islands, nor the snorkeling– not the white sand nor the crystal blue waters– but CAPN JOHN was the highlight.

  31. I just heard the sad news of John’s passing. I had the pleasure and honor of working for John back in my teens many years ago in Marblehead. John was back then and still is a huge influence on my life, a true mentor. He taught me many important things that have stuck with me to this day. John will always have a special place in my heart. My thoughts and prayers are with Sue and family.

  32. Where can I begin , knowing John and Sue through so many phases of Life. Like all of you when I first meet him , it was instant ! A Friend for life ! Working with him and his brother Holten . Catering , Going to the whole sale Markets in Boston , Getting lost , The Boat rides to cocktail cove at Misery Island , The Patriot’s , J&S Brandi’s , Java Sun and The Beach Club in Marblehead , the Adventure of a lifetime ( his Plan ) living a Dream on a Beach in the Sun ! How could it not be .. St John ! Through it all , to everyone that ever meet him , he was one Happy Guy a Insperation , One of Those characters in The cast of characters that he talked about ! Reading his posts on the Weather, what’s up for the Day or Sue’s list , His cats , fun facts of the island, his pictures , kept me there with him !! ( even though we did not talk ) He just had that way ! He showed me how not to take things to Heart and just do what it takes to get to the better end . His Love of Sue goes way beyond words , And How he has touched so many people living the Island Life , but it really is John being John ! To the Captain …. My Friend forever … you will always be in our Hearts and will always be a part of my Life … Until next Time ..

  33. I never did meet John. I only knew Sue from the staying at the Westin and seeing her at her favorite spot on her favorite Beach. This tribute was done very well and sounds like it was well deserved. Sue you mentioned last January when we were on island that John was sick. I am so very sorry for your loss. I hope all your Island friends and your memories of John help you through this very difficult time. We will have a big hug waiting for you when we see you again next year on Island.
    Have many great days.

  34. You truly captured the essence of a remarkable person. John had perfected the art of
    “joie de vivre” and was able to envelope everyone he met with his kindness and joy. He will forever bring a smile to my heart when I look at the water in beautiful St. John. I can’t imagine how much Sue will miss him…and we are so grateful for his example of how to live.

  35. tI was only to St.John once..last October.My daughter Lisa Melicharek and her familY went every year tor the last 8 years.I heard so many great stories about John..I was looking forward to meeting him when I went in October..it was not meant to be..I wantedvto meet the LEGEND…RIP Captain John…you touched my kids lives and the lives of many.

  36. John and Sue were my first employers too. They treated all of us at Brandi’s as family and I think of both John and Sue often. This is a beautiful tribute to a warm and wonderful man. Sue, please know I am thinking of you with love and I am so sorry for your loss.

  37. After a well written tribute like that there isn’t much else to be said.

    We did not know John Brandi the way many of you did. We met him and his lovely wife a few times while on the island. We knew him best from the videos. The Shots of Brandi are priceless. We particularly enjoyed the one where he and Ruth were “sympathy shoveling” on the Cruz Bay Beach while all the northerners were digging out from a particularly bad winter storm. He will always be there to teach a lesson or draw a smile.

    This quote, I think, is particularly to the point in John’s case.

    “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved, we can never lose. For all that we deeply loved becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller

    John, you will always be a part of us.

  38. Graduated with John in 1963 & all through high school we hung together with all of our friends. Last saw John in St John’s when he took our entire group on a tour with Capt Sue at the helm in 2007. A great day & he and Sue made it a “Day to Remember”.
    RIP my friend, Bob

  39. Island Sue,

    A long time ago your friends from Marblehead, Tim, Cathy, TJ and Abbey want you to know you are in our prayers! Warm hugs from all the O’Briens! We send our deepest sympathy and want you to know John was the best!

  40. Thank you so much for sharing those wonderful memories with us. It must have been very difficult putting them down into words. I met Captain John on Jost and immediately he made me feel as though I had known him forever. From then on every
    time I knew we were going back to the Islands I would begin to look forward and hope I would see Captain John. Thankfully we did and every meeting seemed to be a little more special than the one before. We will be going to Jost in September and have been looking so forward to the return but I know when I first step onto the beach it is going to be with a heavy heart. You will be there with us in spirit always Captain John. We will always love and miss you my old friend. Sail on Captain , sail on.

  41. Jenn, amazing remembrances. We are long time visitors to SJ. While I did not know John Brandi personally, I did know of him. Your description of the relationship you had with he and Sue was amazing. I am sorry to hear about this tragic loss to John’s family, you and the island we love so much.

  42. Sue we are all so sorry to hear about John and would love to be in touch with you. If you want, please use the email above to contact me so I can give your information to other people like Leli Simpson, Lauren Cross, Uzay Tumer, etc. so they can say hi.

  43. I just found out. So sorry for your loss, dear Sue. You may remember me, I was (and still am) the writer from Marblehead who used to set up her laptop behind the cappuccino machine. John was an amazing person, always cheerful, upbeat and kind. I miss those days, I miss you both so much. You made our day, every day, as Java Sun was always the best part of the day! Love to you! I am on Facebook, if you ever want to reach out. Love, Patricia

  44. I’m so sorry to learn of John’s passing, now six years ago. John and Sue were a great influence in my life in Marblehead. They gave me a job at “J & S Brandi’s” gourmet food shop. I learned so much from them about how to treat people with respect and kindness and also how to work hard! All my love and well wishes to Sue.

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