Brenda Lynne Chodroff passed away quietly and peacefully, surrounded by beauty, joy, and love, on August 29, 2016.
Brenda was the embodiment of love. The depth of her kindness and compassion for everyone she knew and loved was boundless.
Above all else, Brenda was a loving and devoted mother, wife, sister, aunt, and friend. Her family meant the world to her. She derived her greatest pleasure in life from showering her family, friends, and strangers (who quickly became friends), with kindness, love, generosity, and thoughtful care. She was a friend, counselor, and life coach to all who knew and loved her.
Raised in South Paris, Maine, Brenda was a beautiful "brainiac" with an infectious laugh and radiant smile. Although she later traveled the world and spent her adult life in more metropolitan areas, she always retained her small town roots, deep appreciation for her tight-knit group of friends, and fierce loyalty to her family.
After graduating college from the University of New Hampshire, Brenda moved to Philadelphia, where she met and fell in love with her future husband, Paul. Brenda and Paul's conflicting accounts of their first encounter serve as an ongoing source of amusement to their friends and family.
The couple married on January 8, 1967, and lived in Philadelphia until moving to the naval base in Charleston, South Carolina when Paul entered the navy. They later moved to California, where Brenda found her greatest joy after giving to birth to her daughter, Carol.
Brenda loved the arts, and was an avid music aficionado. She played piano at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and delighted in The Metropolitan Opera with her husband and friends. The smile on her face while she listened to Louis Armstrong was infectious. She basked in special appreciation for artists who combined their music with the promotion of social justice. She radiated sheer joy watching Gustav Dudamel conduct, and took personal pride in his advocacy of access to music for all. She was moved to tears learning about the Democratic Republic of Congo's Kimbanguist Symphony Orchestra, and she shared the 60 Minutes piece about their work widely. And, anyone who knew Brenda, knew how much she adored Harry Belafonte. The joyful melody of Day-O, the Banana Boat Song, could be heard filling the Chodroff home for decades, and Brenda applauded Harry Belafonte's role in the civil rights movement.
Brenda's love of the arts also extended beyond music. She served for years as a docent at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. She loved movies and the theater, and, although she humbly denied it, she was a delicious cook. Her husband and friends laugh recounting the time that Jacques Pépin asked for the recipe of one of her dishes that she initially protested was "terrible" and almost declined to serve.
Brenda was brilliant, an incredibly hard worker, and she mastered anything she put her mind to. Brenda earned the nickname, "the research queen" among family and friends because she could find the answer to almost any question, long before "google" and other online search engines were developed. While she never went to law school herself, she spent hours studying flashcards and coaching her daughter for the California Bar Exam, which Carol never would have passed without her. When her daughter worked in Washington, D.C., Congressman John Conyers, Jr. soon learned of Brenda's talent, and sent her research "assignments," which Brenda completed from across the country. She was also a fierce competitor, and loved a good game of Backgammon, cards, and Words with Friends.
Brenda was a selfless and loving confidante, and a wonderful and loyal friend to everyone lucky enough to know and love her. Her daughter and beloved grand-dog can attest to the fact that Brenda was also the world's best snuggler.
While she struggled with health issues for two decades, Brenda possessed an extraordinary ability and determination to remain positive, and she accepted with grace and strength the hardship and pain that she endured.
Brenda loved life, and she was filled with and exuded gratitude for the beautiful people and experiences she cherished. On the last day of her life, while enjoying a joyful and beautiful vacation in Hawaii, she expressed, "I don't know how I got to be so lucky. I am so happy and thankful to be here."
Brenda is survived by her husband, Paul H. Chodroff; her daughter, Carol Chodroff; her sisters, Margo Siegel and Lois Block; her brother, Norman Block; her nieces, Carrie Gilbert, Amy Siegel, and Lindsay Siegel; her great-nieces and great-nephew, Myla Gilbert, James Daneri, and Allie Daneri; and, her beloved grand-dog, Rio. Brenda was also over the moon about becoming a grandmother; her first grandchild is due in early December 2016.
A celebration of Brenda's life will be held in Lafayette, California on September 25, 2016. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to:
Any checks may be written, payable to:
The New World
on behalf of Sankofa.org
666 West End Avenue #1B
New York NY 10025
Sankofa is a social justice organization founded by Harry Belafonte that enlists the support of today's most celebrated artists and influential individuals in collaboration with grassroots partners to elevate the voices of the disenfranchised and promote justice, peace, and equality. Sankofa will dedicate donations made in Brenda's memory to education and the prevention of violence and childhood incarceration.