Terry Brazil did not grow up in Tulare, but she’s lived there since 1959. She never dreamed she would be director of a museum, but she served as executive director of the Tulare Historical Museum for eight years, and remains museum director today.
Brazil, who grew up in Glendale, got married young, she said, because that is what was expected in the late 1950’s. She had attended Glendale Community College after high school, but then she met her husband, a Tulare native, moved there with him and had two children.
While the marriage did not last, her love for the Tulare community did. She did not consider moving back down to Glendale following her divorce.
“When I got divorced, my parents had moved to Costa Mesa,” she said. “And, in Glendale my parents hadn’t known my friends or their parents [while she grew up], and here I could keep track. I felt I could be move involved in my children’s lives here. Tulare always felt so friendly.”
Brazil worked at Bank of America as a teller, which worked out well timewise, she said, as her 9-3 hours allowed her to be home when her kids got home from school. Later, she went to work in the law office of Joseph Soares, where she worked for many years.
Brazil met Dr. Lionel Brazil, a local veterinarian, and they married in 1973. Dr. Brazil had graduated from the second class of veterinary school at UC Davis, she said. Upon graduation he returned to establish the Tulare Veterinary Hospital. He also got into the dairy business.
When he retired from his practice, the couple sold the dairy and moved to Marina del Rey.
“We were boating, and it was fun – for two years,” she said.
But it was a tough time for the dairy business, and their buyers had not been able to make it work, so the couple returned to Tulare taking over that business once again, and moving to property very close to the dairy. While Dr. Brazil obtained a partner, he continued to manage the dairy until it once again sold. Dr. Brazil passed away in 2007.
In the meantime, Terry Brazil’s two children with first husband, had moved north – her son, Ray, to Washington and her daughter, Cindy, to Oregon.
A Museum Job
For several years, Brazil had worked many temp jobs. She learned of a part-time position as the assistant to the director of the museum. The woman who had formerly been in the position, had just been named as director. Brazil nabbed the assistant position.
“Ellen retired in 2008 and recommended me for the job [as director],” she said.
She got it, and, it is this position by which she is most recognized in the community.
“I kept things going for eight years,” she said.
While Brazil was working as director, Chris Harrell was named curator in 2013. In 2016, the museum underwent some reorganization of work positions creating a full-time position of executive director/curator for which Harrell was named. Brazil was not interested in that position, and was named museum director, retaining a part-time position.
“He always had an eye. I didn’t, I just kept things going,” she said. “He has a real deep-seeded love for this place.”
Brazil said she was relieved by his taking over a lot of the work load that she admitted feeling nervous about.
“It’s been just wonderful,” she said. “I didn’t want to be committed to full time work.
She now considers herself Harrell’s assistant.
“I didn’t want the responsibility of it [being executive director] – coordinating school tours, arranging for docents, making sure someone was in the give shop, organizing club meetings,” she said.
But, her new position has meant she has had to learn some new things – especially with regard to working on the computer and multiple programs.
“I have had to learn new things, but that’s getting me into this century,” she said.
For one thing, the museum schedule is now kept on the computer, and so she has to stay abreast of that via her computer, now.
“It makes things run more smoothly,” she said. “He has a lot of plans.”
“But, I love it when somebody tells me what to do,” she added. “I get to do things I like more now – interacting with the people who come in. I like organizing for meetings, opening and closing in the evenings, getting refreshments – it’s flunky work, in a way, but I like it.”
Another thing she doesn’t miss is speaking to service clubs on behalf of the museum. Public speaking just isn’t her thing, she said.
She would like to continue working in the museum for three to four more years.
“But, I want him to have somebody he can rely on, too, and that’s important,” she said. “They’ll need to be training someone.”
Providing Housing for UC Davis Extension Students
As if she hadn’t been busy enough, Brazil has made room in her home for visiting UC Davis extension students to stay, while studying in Tulare.
“Since 2010, I’ve had several students from UC Davis. Many of them are foreign – I’ve had students from Spain, Iran, Argentina and two from the US, and I currently have a young man from Stockton,” she said. “The first student I had was from Egypt.”
The shortest term was two months, and she has had students live with her for a little over a year.
“They pay rent,” she said. “They buy their own groceries and cook their own food, and clean up after themselves.”
It’s strictly an agreement between the homeowner and student, she said. The university has no involvement other than by ways of introduction. Since she started, she has recommended the “gig” to others.
She never was too worried about having a student live and have access to her home.
“I felt that if they are cleared to go to UC Davis, and they’re paying the money to go, then they are probably OK,” she said, “and I have never been disappointed with that assessment.”
The other option for these students is student housing in mobile homes at the Tulare extension center, where they can live with other students. But, living with a local family is cheaper, she has been told, and some of the professors urge their students to live with a local family to see how life is in Tulare.
“I have no regrets at all,” Brazil said of her student housing.
While some students, especially Sonya, a girl from Spain who had live with Brazil, stay much to themselves, she said, others, such as a Steven, a student from Northern California would watch television with her in the evenings. Some have shown an interest in her museum work, while others have obtained from paying a visit to the facility.
When they move on, Brazil generally knows what will be next in their lives, but she has not stayed in touch with all of them. She has, however, stayed in touch with Sonya, who had returned to Spain, but then moved to South Dakota, for further schooling. The student from Egypt who lived with her, now works for the USDA and lives in Fresno, she said.
Memberships and Clubs
Through the years, Brazil has been active in Sundale School, where her children and granddaughter had attended. She joined the Valley Oak Garden Club in the 1980’s and remains a member today. The club’s monthly meetings are held at the museum. She is a member of the Tulare Republican Women Federation and is a longtime member of the Tulare United Methodist Church.
“I find the history here of Tulare so fascinating – I didn’t really know the history of Glendale,” she said. “They’re just so understated about what accomplishments people have made here in Tulare. They act like, well, yes, we did this, but it’s nothing. And, they’ve kept things going here, even though farming is not always easy.”
She’s also found that people always seem to return to their home in Tulare.
“That’s the thing about Tulare,” she said. “There are so many natives – they always come back.”