At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
St. Alphonsus Catholic Church
224 Carrier NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
950 Corporate Office Drive; Suite 150
Milford, MI 48381
Life Story / Obituary
When reflecting on the life of Brenda Barnard, it is easy to see her selfless and compassionate spirit that encompassed everything she did. Her life wasn’t always easy, but her strength and resilience were an inspiration to all who were near. There was no greater gift in Brenda’s life than her family and friends, and she was happiest when surrounded by their love. She was outgoing and so much fun to be around, and her zest for life was contagious to all who were near. Life will never be the same without Brenda here, but she leaves behind a priceless collection of memories that her loved ones will forever hold near and dear to their hearts.
America was an exciting place to be during the 1950s as the end of WWII ushered in times of great prosperity and feelings of hope. Marilyn Monroe and James Dean were big names in Hollywood while Elvis Presley took the music world by storm with his rock ’n roll. It was during this same time that William and Lena (VandenBos) Cress were eagerly awaiting the birth of their new baby as the beauty of fall began to unfold in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1951. Their wait was over when the baby girl they named Brenda Lou drew her first breath on October 12th. She was the oldest of four as she was joined in her family by her three younger brothers and her half-brother.
Raised in the family home on Buffalo Street on the Northeast side of the city, Brenda was a responsible girl right from the start. She was always a good kid, and she was often asked to look after her younger brothers. She continued to be protective of them for the rest of her life. As a student Brenda attended East Leonard Elementary where she was social, outgoing, and involved in several activities including as a Campfire Girl, in the drum and bugle corps, Job’s Daughters, and ski club. She always had a smile, and laughter was commonplace when Brenda was around as well. Although their family didn’t have much extra money, they did get to take some road trips throughout the country.
After graduating from Creston High School in 1969, Brenda started working full-time at Michigan Bell. During this time she also began taking classes at Grand Rapids Junior College and later at Aquinas College. Not only did Brenda earn her bachelor’s degree, but she also earned her master’s degree. She spent most of her career with Michigan Bell, starting off as an operator, working everywhere from manholes to telephone poles, and eventually working her way up to an engineer. Brenda also moved out on her own during this time, and she later bought a home.
While in high school, she met Richard “Ric” Barnard after being set up on a blind date by his sister-in-law. They married around 1980 in Cedar Springs, and this is where the couple initially settled as well. In 1985 Brenda gave birth to her son, Jacob Lee, who sadly only lived for about an hour. His death would always be something that deeply impacted Brenda. She and Ric then moved to a home in Kent City, and it even had its own air strip. Since they were both pilots, they loved flying and even had their own plane. They loved going up to Traverse City, taking color tours from the air, and even going to Atlantic City. They were active socially as well, as she was a member of the Eastern Star and he was with the American Legion. In 1997, tragedy struck in Brenda’s life again when Ric was killed in an auto accident. Soon, she moved back to Grand Rapids and settled into a home just down the road from her mother’s house. Brenda retired early to care for her mother, and they were often together. She took trips with her mother and friends, and she usually stopped by to visit a couple of times a day. Even when her mother later moved to a nursing home, Brenda still visited every day until her mother died in 2008.
Ready for a fresh start, Brenda found a great outlet in teaching. She did some substitute teaching for elementary students, working all over Kent County, but predominantly for Grand Rapids Public Schools and local Catholic elementary schools. Brenda just loved being around kids and found teaching to be so rewarding. She also had friends who helped keep her busy as they frequented concerts, dinners out including to one of their favorites, Vitale’s on Leonard. Even just staying home playing cards with her friends was something Brenda enjoyed. An avid reader, she also joined a book club. Faith was something Brenda always found strength and comfort in, and later in life she began regularly attending St. Alphonsus Catholic Church and taking part in many of their events and activities. Brenda looked forward to times when the whole family gathered together, and for years she looked forward to hosting the holiday parties. No matter the occasion, she seized every opportunity to spend time with her brothers and their children. Whenever the need arose, Brenda was there to defend her family without missing a beat. For the past couple of years, she was forced to slow down some as her health became more challenging. Things took a downward turn this past February when Brenda was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. She then moved to Story Point, which was a great fit. Brenda quickly joined the book club and took part in other activities, but her health declined quickly. Even in her last days, she was pleasant to those around her and made a significant impact on those who were caring for her.
Vibrant, generous, and compassionate are just a few of the words that describe Brenda Barnard. She lived life fully, and she faced whatever challenge came her way head on. Brenda treasured time spent with her family and friends, and she was the sort of person who never met a stranger. She could be opinionated at times, but she tactfully waited to share her thoughts until she was in the company of those she trusted. Deeply loved, Brenda will be forever missed.
Brenda L Barnard, age 70 of Grand Rapids, entered into eternal rest to be with her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on November 3, 2021. Brenda was preceded in death by her husband, Richard “Ric” Barnard; her beloved infant son, Jacob; and her brothers John “Daniel” Cress, and William “Marty” Cress. Brenda is survived by her brothers Robert (Patti) Cress and Carl (Darlene) Cress; as well as several nieces and nephews. Friends are invited to visit with Brenda’s family on Tuesday, November 9 from 5-7 PM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave NE. Her funeral service will be held on Wednesday at 11 AM at the funeral home. For those who wish, memorial contributions to either Laurus Hospice or St. Alphonsus Church are appreciated. To read more about Brenda’s life, to share a memory or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com