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South Bend community honors life of local civil rights leader

Barbara's Family
Barbara's Family
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Family and friends gathered today to celebrate the life of a local Civil Rights icon. Barbara Vance Brandy died Tuesday at the age of 84.

Barbara became a symbol of Civil Rights progress at a very young age, but as an adult her strength, professionalism, and love helped shape the people in her life.

They say she will always be remembered as a big influence not just in the African American community, but also in her hometown of South Bend.

Those who loved Barbara Vance Brandy came together to remember a woman who stood up for what she believed in. They bowed their heads in prayer, held hands, listened to songs of hope, and shared their memories of a remarkable woman.

Her granddaughter Arielle says she learned everything she knows from her grandmother.

"To be able to follow in her foot steps and continue that path it's great, and we felt nothing but love in a time of grief," said Arielle Brandy.

Many people may remember the story of the little girl in the red bathing suit. She was turned away at the local public indoor pool because of the color of her skin.

It was a moment that forever changed the course of Barbara Vance Brandy's life, and when the pool was torn down and renovated to become the IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center she became their inspiration.

"We love our mother and we are here to give her the respect and the glory that she deserves," said Barbara's daughter, Karen Brandy-Comer.

Family members say Barbara was a force of nature and a symbol of change.

"Barbara was what I would call my hero in a sense. No matter what I did in my childhood life, or professional life she was always there when I needed her," said her cousin, Robert Kenneth Thomas.

"Barbara spoke her mind you didn't mess with Barbara. Barbara was what they called old school," said her cousin, Merlin Patrick Thomas.

Her granddaughter Jennifer says at only 5'1" you still felt her presence when she walked into the room, and she'll never forget sitting down and hearing her stories about the family history.

"I feel it was a blessing that by the time my children came along she was still able to share those stories with them,"said Jennifer Liddell.

Her family says Barbara Vance Brandy was a fighter whose legacy and influence prove people are still fighting for what's right.

The family is planning to start a foundation in her name and her granddaughter is starting a blog called "The Stories She Told" to help empower young women and honor her memory.

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For more details on the Civil Rights Heritage Center in South Bend, please visit their website:

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