Alvin De Wane Brandt was born on March 24, 1937, in Meade, Kansas. It was during the Dust Bowl days and he referred to himself as a “dustbowl-depression baby”. He says, “Dust was so heavy you could trace tracks on the windowsill five minutes after cleaning. When you would plant seeds in Kansas, the soil and the seed would blow to Oklahoma and the soil would be blown back to Kansas without the seed.”
When he was 9 months old his parents caravanned with his paternal grandfather’s family, the Isaac Brandts, to the west coast, eventually ending up in Dallas, Oregon. Stories of $1 motels where you provided your own towels and bedding were reminiscent of “Grapes of Wrath”. After about a year and a half, the whole extended family moved to Dallas, Oregon.
According to Al, he remembers his entire family bathing in a 15-gallon tub of water starting with the youngest. His father changed that with a rather ingenious procedure. He attached a hose with a shower head to the bottom of the tub, mounting the tub overhead and pouring a bucket of hot water into the tub. This necessitated a quick shower.
The one room cabin where they originally lived in Dallas became a “chicken house” where a very young Alvin experimented with smashing eggs by throwing them against the wall. He recounts, “Dad apparently shared my ‘love’ for chickens as I was only verbally advised that my experiment was unwise. However, the time dad caught me pretending to drive a truck in the wheat bin resulted in more disciplined punishment with a handy rope. In my childish wisdom I opted to show him how I’d been playing rather than returning to my chores.”
His father worked for a farmer, Mr. Minty and eventually purchased the whole farm from him. The dairy herd grew, milking upwards of 90 cows in elevated stalls beginning at 5 a.m. and then again every evening. They also raised grains and feed. He reminisces about “tromping” silage in the silo and learning to drive tractor and truck at 6-8 years old but always looking forward to what they fondly called “10 o’clock and 3 o’clock” in which his mother would bring out homemade goodies and snacks and drinks to the fields. During planting season, he and his brother Virgil would take turns going to school and planting in the fields every other day and were the envy of their classmates. When equipment would break down, you didn’t just going running to town for the part, you had to make do with whatever you could jury-rig. He referred to this as “baling wire repairs”. This is where his keen mechanical and engineering gifts were fostered.
At the age of 14 he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, and gladly followed him until his meeting with him in heaven.
After graduating from Dallas High School in 1955, he enrolled in Grace Bible Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, where he met a certain Dolores Wiebe. Dolores recalled: After a year of friendship, he asked me out on a date. And then another one the next night and another one the next. It was on date number three that he asked me to marry him to which I responded, “Don’t you think this is a little sudden?” but I didn’t say no and the rest is history. During our engagement he moved to Alaska to take charge of a boy’s dorm at Minfield Children’s Home in Auke Bay for 8 months. Two weeks after he returned we were married on August 2, 1958.
On December 13, 1959, they celebrated the arrival of our first daughter, Cynthia Michelle, who was born with a heart defect and lived only 8 months. She was a beautiful baby and Al just loved her dearly. That was the first of some difficult times they were to walk through together. A bright spot was the birth of Kimberley Denise on January 6, 1961. She brought so much joy. Al graduated from Grace in 1961 and worked at a company called Meisner’s where they built motorized go carts. Being infatuated with all things mechanical, he obtained spare parts and used their equipment to build his own motor scooter which he was riding to work the spring of 1962 when he was in a near fatal accident. The doctors told me he probably wouldn’t live and if he did, he would undoubtedly be in a vegetative state the rest of his life. After being in a coma for 3 days though, he regained consciousness, albeit with large portions of his memory gone. It was after this time that he committed to memorizing Scripture which continued to be such an integral part of his life to the day he died. Miraculously, he was restored to almost full brain function within a very short period of time and none too soon as our next Alaska adventure was about to launch. We moved to Palmer, Alaska, to be house parents of 10 indigenous foster children at Lazy Mountain Children’s Home where Lori was born on November 26, 1965. It was a wild time, hunting moose for meat, working on the small farm that was part of the Children’s home. He also gladly repaired the equipment as needed, while Dolores was busy with cooking for a family of 12, keeping up the house and occasionally sewing for the girls with two little ones of her own, but they survived. After 4 years, they headed back to Dallas, Oregon, where Al pursued his BS in Electrical Engineering while Dolores earned her RN. We took turns studying and working nights and caring for their two precious little girls. That was a challenging time but soon they were off to San Jose, California, where Al began his career in the semiconductor industry working for Intel, National Semiconductor and ending up at DuPont Photo Mask.
Al served in his church for more than 38 years in many capacities including: Boy’s Brigade, head usher, playing trombone in the orchestra and brass ensemble, singing in the male chorus, mentoring the college and career group and hosting their Bible study as well as participating in a number of committees and service projects. He was also instrumental in starting Bible studies at his places of employment. He was known for his warmth and friendliness and passing out Scripture cards which he would make on the computer using a business card format. This continued to be a hobby and a passion for him. His children and grandchildren have all benefited from his love of Scripture and his many famous quotes and sayings. The girls were raised on such quotes as: “Privilege and opportunity cost responsibility and Mastery is acquired by resolved limitation.”
He loved having the opportunity to challenge the men in his Bible study group with Scripture memorization, handpicking verses for each one of them individually every week. Right up to the end, even the last 6 years after his diagnosis of Parkinsonism and with increasing debilitation and pain, there was hardly a time you were in his presence that he didn’t give you a word of encouragement, often with an accompanying Bible verse, usually from the Living Bible. One that we heard often in recent times was I Peter 4:10, “God has given each of you some special abilities; be sure to use them to help each other, passing on to others God’s many kinds of blessing”. He was always so appreciative of the people around him and never failed to let them know it. He never lost his quick ear-to-ear smile, positive attitude and corny sense of humor. Just hours before his passing, I asked him how he was feeling and struggling to get his hand up, he touched his cheek with almost a twinkle in his eye.
He leaves to mourn, Dolores, his loving wife of 57 years; daughters: Kimberley Brandt, Lori (Kurt) Leander; grandsons: Stephen (Frankiluz) Moyer, Andrew Moyer and Kasey Leander; granddaughters: Karlyn and Lola Leander; sister, Dorothy (Jim) Classen; brothers: Merlin (Kimberly) Brandt and Jack Brandt; 10 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his precious daughter, Cynthia Michelle; father and mother, Peter and Sally (Ediger) Brandt; and brother, Virgil Brandt.