Barbara K. Brent always believed in fighting for peace and equality. While attending Valparaiso University, the Oak Park, Ill., native participated in demonstrations supporting the Equal Rights Amendment. Thirty years ago, she marched in Washington, D.C. to protest the Vietnam War. More recently, she braved oppressive temperatures, and chemotherapy-induced exhaustion, to oppose the War in Iraq.
Brent was working with battered women in the early 1980s when she first became aware of the plight of the homeless. As the first executive director of the DuPage Public Action to Deliver Shelter program in Wheaton, Ill., Brent convinced local religious leaders to open their houses of worship and provide food and shelter to the homeless population. Known for her compassion and determination, she was nicknamed “Our Fearless Leader” by her co-workers.
Brent earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology from Elmhurst College, and a master’s degree in human service administration from National-Louis University. She later worked as a probation officer, volunteered with the DuPage Women Against Rape organization and taught a class at the College of DuPage. In 1996, she was named the Wheaton Kiwanis Club’s Citizen of the Year.
Brent died on June 20 of complications from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She was 52.