Billie Lee Brand|
In loving memory at the first anniversary of his passing, Billie Lee Brand's life ended suddenly on December 8, 2012 at his home in Yuma, Arizona. He was 82 years old.
Billie Lee Brand was born on April 30, 1930 to Henry C. and Helen Pyle Brand on the Quawpaw Reservation near the township of Picher, Oklahoma. Born at the beginning of the deepening Depression, his parents brought him to San Benito, California as an infant. His brother John Henry died in 1938 and his mother Helen died in Hollister in 1939. Bill grew up in San Juan Bautista and Hollister, moving with his father, step-mother Nora, to Corralitos in 1941. While he was a student at Watsonville Union High School from 1944-48, Bill worked in his parent's apple orchard and other local ranches. He would tell us stories of wartime rationing and how he was always in trouble for wearing out his boots before they had enough rationing stamps to get another pair.
In late1950 Bill was drafted in the Army, and was stationed at Fort Ord for basic and advanced training. He was sent to Japan as part of the U.S. occupational forces in a chemical, biological, and radiological warfare unit. When the Korean Conflict intensified, Bill was sent with the 2nd Division, 9th Infantry Regiment to Korea, landing on December 24, 1951, where he spent the next 14 months. Bill talked about the beauty of Japan and the graciousness of the Japanese people, his brutally freezing first months in Korea, the heat and humidity in the summer months, and joked about Army food, but not until we were adults did we hear about the serious side of his Korean experience, and even then, he preferred to discuss only the positive side of his tour. As children, when asked why he had the strange white scars on his arms, he would say that they were chicken scratches. Years later I found out the scars were burns from white phosphorus from artillery shelling.
He was promoted to corporal in Korea, and was honorably discharged back home in California in early 1953.
Bill met Barbara Rhody soon after his Army service ended, and they married in Watsonville in November, 1953, and raised four children, Anthony (Tony), Cheryl, Martha, And Thomas. He worked at various jobs in the early years, at the Ford assembly plant in Fremont, the Heinz vinegar works in Watsonville, and many other places until he got a job with the J.J. Crosetti Company as a lettuce loader. He was a charter member of loaders and farm laborers affiliated with the AFL-CIO when it was formed in the mid-50s. Bill was a shop steward for many years, and was proud to have helped agricultural laborers bargain for medical care and decent wages. Although the labor union scene changed through the years, during the Teamster years, then the UFW years, Bill ended his 50 + year career at age 78 as an AFL-CIO member.
Bill and Barbara divorced in the early 70s, and Bill married Elizabeth (Liz) Gray a few years later. Together they raised John Eric Moore, Liz's son from a previous marriage. Bill continued to work summers in the Pajaro and Salinas Valleys and in the Imperial Valley during the winter. His last place of employment was Nunes Farms of Salinas and Yuma, AZ. Bill and Liz moved permanently to Yuma in 2002.
Bill was predeceased by his daughter Cheryl Brand Jones in 2006 and by his beloved Liz in 2010. He is survived by his children Tony Brand and his fiancée Norah Crawford, Martha Stanton and her husband Bob, Tom Brand and his wife Natalie, and CDR. John Moore, USN and his wife Ruth, grandchildren Alexis and Michaela Brand, Brittany Brand, Chardae Jones, James Stanton and his wife Tiffany White Stanton, John Stanton, Nicolas Brand and his wife Christine, Michael and Christopher Brand, Cole, Dain, Finn, and Alexandra Moore, and one great-granddaughter, Peyton Grace Placencia. Bill's surviving siblings include Jim Brand and his wife Kay, Dorothy Summers, Katherine Pettus and her husband Bill, Jan Goldman, Judy Bright, Fred Brand, and Leonard Brand and his wife Dolly, and many nieces and nephews.
Bill also leaves behind a host of close friends and neighbors in Watsonville and in Yuma, AZ. He will be missed by his cherished friends Ferdinand Tihista and Dave Carlon, both long-time co-workers in the lettuce industry, his friends and neighbors in Yuma, and especially by his children and grandchildren.
A date for a memorial gathering for Bill and Liz will be announced when their son John Moore returns from sea deployment with the U.S. Navy. To leave your contact information for notification of the gathering date, please leave a message with his daughter Marti at (831) 728-5587.
Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Dec. 8, 2013