Brenda LaBlanc was born in Watford, England on April 15, 1928 and died at Valley View Village October 9, 2020 at the age of 92. During World War 2 she met her future husband Robert LaBlanc a member of the Army Air Corp and a resident of Des Moines, Iowa.

Brenda and Robert were married in Watford in 1945 and moved to the east side of Des Moines in 1946. She began working at Meredith Publishing in the early 1950’s as a clerical worker and retired as an analyst at the age of 58. While at Meredith she completed a bachelor’s degree in English at Drake University by totally attending night classes.

She began her advocacy for people’s rights and opportunities when she was nearly 40 years old first running for city council, and next contesting the City of Des Moines proposal for mandatory home inspections and repairs. That experience was a defining moment in her life as, with her neighbors, she took steps to address the issues. Later, she and her husband were denied a home mortgage by five banks because their home was located in a low income neighborhood. As a result LaBlanc began her 40 year mission to ensure that other qualified borrowers were not denied the credit they deserved. She joined Des Moines Citizens for Community Improvement and became an expert in the Community Reinvestment Act using it and the data it collected to ensure banks met the credit needs of everyone, including those who lived in low-income neighborhoods. She also advocated on other issues that impacted people of modest means such as affordable utility rates and neighborhood drug activity.

In addition she was an early member of the Des Moines Human Rights Commission and a founder of the Laurel Hill Neighborhood Association. As an activist she was an early adopter of the Alinsky model of community organizing that was pioneered by the University of Chicago’s Saul Alinsky in the 1970’s.

While advocating for local issues she also connected with other organizations around the United States working with legislators and the Federal Reserve on interest rates and access to loans.

Because of her leadership skills, LaBlanc was recruited to be co-chair of National Peoples’ Action in 2001, where she helped coordinate a coalition of hundreds of community organizations across the United States. LaBlanc connected people across racial, economic, ethnic, and geographical boundaries and values working together with others to improve the community for all. In one of her actions in Washington DC, she was removed from Karl Rove’s front porch by the Secret Service.

Among her many honors, she received the key to the City of Des Moines and was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005.

She led an adventurous life which began with a voyage across the sea from Great Britain to the United States as a war bride. She travelled back to England a number of times over the years to visit relatives.

She took up scuba diving in her 40s, wrote a memoir of her experiences in World War II in her 50s, wrote a mystery book in her 60s and became a master gardener in her 70s. She loved her garden which was full of blooming flowers and shrubs.

A major focus of her life was her children and grandchildren. She is survived by her sons, Max (Sandra) Pleasant Hill and Dan (Martha) Oklahoma City, OK. Her 4 grandchildren, Scott LaBlanc Des Moines, David LaBlanc Des Moines, Desiree LaBlanc Neal (Mike) Pleasant Hill and Jolie LaBlanc (Johnny Garcia) of Monterey, CA. In addition, her 4 great-grandchildren, James, Airic, Madeline and Amrie. She was preceded in death by her parents, sister and husband Robert LaBlanc.

Because of the Covid pandemic, no memorial service will be held. Burial of the cremations will happen at a later time. Memorial contributions may be made to the ACLU or to Citizens for Community Improvement.

Service Details

There will be no services held at this time.
Hamilton's Crematory
Des Moines
Hamilton's Funeral Home
605 Lyon Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 243-5221

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