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Barbara Maria Brandt
3/12/51 - 5/12/23
Barbara M. Brandt, of Exeter, died Friday, May 12, 2023 as a result of lung disease caused by decades of rheumatoid arthritis. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend and confidant to so many people. Let it be known that among life’s abundant treasures, she most loved the Lord, her husband, her children and grandchildren, animals large and small, plants and flowers of all size and color, reading, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ice cream.
Barbara Maria Rapp was born in Lenggries, Germany, on March 12, 1951 to Thomas and Anna Rapp. As a very young child, Barbara spoke German before English. She spent her formative years living in locations all over the world as the Rapp family moved for her dad’s role in the U.S. army. Barbara had the opportunity to see and live in places like Japan, New Jersey, Georgia, and Monterey, California. Upon reflecting on her childhood and the many locations they lived, Barbara once counted 16 different schools she attended before finally returning to Pacific Grove where she graduated from Pacific Grove High School in1969. Her dad was stationed at Ford Ord during his army career and the family returned there following his deployments.
As fate would have it, Barbara’s mother became good friends with Helen Kenoyer, the wife of another soldier at Ford Ord. In the summer of 1969, Helen went to visit her sister, Ellen Brandt, in this quant little town called Exeter in the Central Valley of California and took Barbara along for the trip. That is where Barbara met Bruce, Ellen’s oldest son who had just returned home to Exeter after two years in the army. He quickly became the love of her life and there were several more trips to the Valley. Fast forward to less than a year later and Bruce Alan Brandt and Barbara Maria Rapp were married at the Church of God in Exeter on June 6, 1970.
Bruce and Barbara lived in Tulare, California—at first in a tiny apartment, then a house across from Cherry Ave school—while Bruce taught in Tulare a few years before landing at his next and final career stop working for Exeter Union High School. Barbara spent a short time working for a CPA and then got a job with Judge Hahesy in Tulare and that sparked her interest in law. She enjoyed the work and it laid the foundation for her decision, years later, to attend night school and complete a paralegal certificate at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia. They bought their first house in Visalia and settled in with their large poodle Happy—the first of many dogs!—and soon found themselves expecting.
In September of 1974 their love was tested, as their first born son lived just a few hours. Their love endured and they welcomed Nick Alan Brandt in October of 1975 and Heather Ellen Brandt fifteen months later in January of 1977. Barbara always enjoyed telling the story about how she went to the doctor when Nick was six months old to get birth control only to laugh at him in disbelief when he told her she was pregnant already.
In 1978 Bruce and Barbara made the decision to build their forever home in Exeter and bought property adjacent Bruce’s parents Nick and Ellen, on Elberta Road. For many years Barbara was able to stay home with Nick and Heather. She volunteered at Lincoln elementary school (multiple years as the carnival clown and considerable donations to the cake walk), helped start the Gingerbread House Daycare in Exeter, helped at the Exeter Church of God and managed to fit in night school to become a paralegal.
Barbara had a very successful paralegal career. She spent many years as a trial paralegal with Hurlbutt, Clevenger, Long, Vortmann and Rauber in Visalia before branching off to dive further into family law with CD Harbottle, who had started her own firm. Barbara was passionate about her work and spent countless hours helping families shattered by trauma. She was active in the Tulare County Legal Secretary’s Association, holding many leadership positions, mentoring others and helping plan and execute many fundraising events.
Barbara embraced an early retirement in her mid 40’s thanks to the physical demands of arthritis but it didn’t stop her from living life to its fullest or from fully enjoying the next and quite possibly most favorite chapter of her life, being a grandma.
For more than a decade, Barbara had a trio of grandkids and her heart was full. Cody (2002), Aiden (2006) and Taylor (2009) brought her a kind of joy that she often struggled to put to words. Barbara had the opportunity and immense pleasure of watching Heather’s boys once a week in Fresno, their entire young lives. She also had the immense pleasure of living across the walnut orchard from her mini-me, arts and crafts partner and best baking buddy, Taylor. Barbara and Taylor spent countless hours (often Sunday afternoons) painting, gardening, baking, giving grandpa a hard time, loving on critters, crafting and eating ice cream.
Among some of Barbara’s most favorite memories were the annual family trips to Las Vegas for the NHRA drag races (plus good food, art and entertainment!) that included Bruce, Nick and Amber, Heather and Matt and all of the grandkids. In 2017 Barbara met her match in grandchild number four, Eli. Sweet, fiery and independent like his grandma, Eli gave Barbara immense joy in her final years as she resumed the once-weekly tradition of babysitting in Fresno.
Barbara is survived by her husband Bruce Brandt of Exeter, her son Nick Brandt and his wife Amber Brandt of Exeter, her daughter Heather (Brandt) Heinks and husband Matt Heinks of Fresno and her four grandchildren (eldest to youngest), Cody Heinks, Aiden Heinks, Taylor Brandt and Eli Heinks; her sister Dagmar Van Fleet of San Jose; brother-in-law Mark Brandt and his wife Dannie Brandt of Newport, WA and countless other friends, confidants and loved ones.
The celebration of Barbara’s life is scheduled for Saturday, June 3rd at 10:00 am. It will be at the Rocky Hill Community Church, 237 South E Street, Exeter. Since ice cream was Barbara’s most favorite thing in the world, there will be an ice cream reception immediately following the service as our treat to remember and honor her.