Spotlight on Brenda Brindley
Has this ever happened to you? You sit down with a stranger and begin talking about your lives, and you are struck by what an amazing life that other person has led!
Well, that happened to me about a month ago, shortly after Brenda started volunteering at the front desk. I happened to pass by as she was grabbing a bite to eat in The Café before her 12:30 shift, introduced myself, and was asked to join her.
Coming from a rather “predictable” background of growing up, getting married, raising two kids, and having a life-long teaching career, I found her life story of moving around and randomly picking up jobs as she went along so out of my comfort zone .. but so exciting! I thought you might enjoy reading about her life as well.
Brenda had an inauspicious beginning, born in Mattawan, MI (a town 17 miles SW of Kalamazoo), and raised on a small farm with her parents and two brothers. On their 20 acres, they grew vegetables for the family … “plus others”!
After high school graduation, she completed beauty school and worked in a small shop for two years before deciding there was more to life than this! At that point, at the age of 20, she says, “I started my adventures!”
First, a move to Eugene, OR, where Brenda worked with a photo studio taking portraits of children and selling packages to their parents. That lasted a couple of years then to Roseburg where she was a supervisor for a cleaning company; and to Bend where she became a worker in a molding and framing mill.
Six years later, she had saved enough money to take a two-week vacation to Alaska, visiting different places on the Kenai Peninsula. Such incredible scenery! This was heaven!
So, Brenda returned home, packed up and, with $54 in her pocket, moved to Homer, giving no thought as to where she would live or how she would make a living.
Almost immediately, she met a young man who lived in a trailer on the beach who offered her a room “for awhile”. Going into the Salty Dawg Saloon to inquire about employment, she found that one woman had just quit and they needed someone right away! So, Brenda became a bartender for three years at this famous tourist destination. (You can’t say you’ve been to Homer if you haven’t had at least one drink sat the historic, 1897 Salty Dawg!)
Then wanderlust overtook her again when Brenda was offered a job on a NOAA vessel as a cook. (NOAA is an American scientific agency that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere.) Always one to grab the brass ring of adventure when it came along, she spent nine months aboard, 2 1/2 months in Hilo, Hawaii, surveying the waters there; and the rest of the time at Cook Inlet, Alaska.
After 7 months back with her parents, Brenda applied to work the summer season at Crater Lake National Park. There, she supervised the housekeeping team for the lodge opening; then worked the front desk for the duration.
Back to Eugene and four years as a custodian with the Lane County School District in Eugene. Bored to death, the call of adventure had to be answered. Another brass ring appeared: a want ad in a newspaper for a job processing crab in Dutch Harbor, Alaska! Off she went! Arriving in January, the weather was wet and cold, Brenda says it was the “ice cube tray of the world”! Her job entailed boiling King Crabs, hacking them in half, and prepared them to be frozen. She worked at the processing plant for three months; then transferred to housekeeping for another three months in a company-owned hotel. (She had to work at least 6 months with the company to get her travel paid for!)
Whew! You still with me? Brenda now stays in Dutch Harbor, and over the next few years, works at a fishing lodge in housekeeping and a prep cook; drove a taxi; worked at a diving and salvage company doing data processing and payroll; was a bank teller for 2 1/2 years; and a police department Dispatcher/Communications Officer for 4 1/2 years. Laid off from this, she became a cook aboard a 175-foot long-line cod processor-ship with a crew of 24; then a counselor for abused women at a women’s shelter. While rewarding work at the shelter, after several years Brenda found the work too depressing, and once again, needing adventure, she signed on as a cook aboard a crab-fishing boat along the Aleutian Chain in the Bering Sea. This was followed by being hired on at a 36-bed construction camp that needed a manager and cook.
After a couple of years there, 24/7, she got burned out and, in 2003, decided to return to the “lower 48”, moving to Brinnon, WA. She was hired to work at QFC in Port Hadlock (aptly, in the seafood department), and after a shoulder injury in 2006, was reduced to “light duty” and transferred to the Sequim QFC as a service station attendant from which she retired in 2014.
Now retired and living in Baywood Village, Brenda loves Sequim, as do most of us who call Sequim our retirement home. She enjoys meeting and helping people at Shipley’s front desk, and attending the special luncheons.
Brenda loves to bake! A job not previously mentioned was having her own bakery inside a restaurant in Dutch Harbor. Primarily cookies, cakes and pies, one of her apple pies brought $65 in an auction! Later, her apple pie won the blue ribbon at the Jefferson County Fair!
In her spare time, Brenda enjoys travel, and doing things with her significant other, Steve.
Welcome aboard Brenda! We are glad you’re part of our Shipley Center family!
Do any of YOU have an interesting hobby that could be featured in an upcoming Spotlight article? Let Margaret Cox know.