Barbara Brendli, a teacher’s aide and college athlete who was among the first wave of female students to win scholarships after passage of Title IX, died May 28 at a Port Jefferson hospice facility, family members said.
The North Patchogue resident died of uterine cancer after nearly two years fighting the disease, her husband, Steven Brendli, said. She was 61.
Born Nov. 23, 1955, in Bay Shore, she graduated from Sachem High School in 1973, and graduated magna cum laude from Adelphi University in 1977 with a bachelor of science degree in physical education.
She played field hockey at Adelphi, winning full scholarships for her junior and senior years of college, after passage of the Title IX Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on gender of any federally funded education program.
“She was a phenomenal athlete in the 1960s and 70s when women weren’t watched in sports,” said Peggy Tuttle, a childhood friend. “In the early ’70s if you were a female athlete, you were the oddball.”
As girls, Tuttle said she and Barbara Brendli grew frustrated with the lack of a female sports club at Sachem High School, and — after lobbying the principal and finding a teacher volunteer — organized the first girl’s athletic association at Sachem High School.
An avid sportswoman, Brendli also enjoyed playing softball, basketball, tennis and golf, Steven Brendli said.
Barbara Brendli was also known for being a generous host and an excellent cook and baker — meatloaf and apple pie were among her specialties. She worked as a teacher’s aide in the Patchogue-Medford School district for 14 years before taking leave after her diagnosis.
“She was very handy, she did everything around the house,” he said. “She would work on cars. Her brother was an auto mechanic and she learned a lot from him.”
Steven Brendli said his wife was a dedicated and fierce mother, who wasn’t afraid to argue with an athletic coach if her children weren’t getting enough playing time. He said she was proud when their son, Michael Brendli, 34, of Islip, became a WWE wrestler known as “Mike Mondo” and “Mikey” on the Spirit Squad.
The couple met on a blind date — and for Steven Brendli, at least — it was a sure thing.
“I told my friend that this was the woman I was going to marry,” he said. “I knew from the moment I met her I was going to marry her. It just took me four years.”
They wed in 1978.
In addition to her husband and son, Barbara Brendli is survived by another son Robert Brendli, 31, of Port Jefferson Station; daughter Michelle Brendli, 27, of North Patchogue; and brothers Stephen Stoebe, of Rocky Point, and William Stoebe of Manorville.
A wake and prayer service were held May 31 at Ruland Funeral Home in Patchogue. A funeral Mass was held June 1 at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Patchogue.
She was entombed at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.