George and Diana Brandt line up their good works with kindness, consistency and generosity for their community
Written by Melissa Bean Sterzick | Photographed by Vincent Rios
There are many ways to make your community a better place. For Torrance Memorial Medical Center Ambassadors Diana and George Brandt, it’s a hands-on, feet-on-the-ground, get-your hands-dirty approach that feels right. They participate; they reach out. They magnify their influence by presenting a united front.
Diana and George met on a double date, but they were not together. Diana was dating George’s roommate, and she’d set up George with one of her friends. Sometime during dinner and at the drive-in movie, it became clear they were with the wrong people.
“We just sort of locked eyes, and I called her a week later. I lost a roommate and gained a wife,” George says.
PV Bowl has been a Brandt family business since 1962. George says his family has a wide network of friends because of their church, the bowling center and their many years in the South Bay. All of those influences shaped their lives and gave them a strong sense of belonging.
“The bowling center was there a long time. It was one of the principal things to do for children and adults. Back in the day, we were open 24 hours a day. We used to have babysitting,” he says. “Through the years everybody has come and bowled. This is really a small community.”
The Brandts have two sons—Christopher, married to Lori, and Jeremy, married to Laura—and eight grandchildren. Both Christopher and Jeremy worked at the bowling center at one time or another.
George had been working on redeveloping the bowling center property for almost five years before arrangements were finalized. His timing was fortunate.
“We closed the bowling center January 31, 2020, and a couple of weeks later, all the bowling centers had to close because of COVID-19,” he says.
Aldi, Chick-fil-A and Kinecta have opened on the site where PV Bowl once stood. George says the change was bittersweet, but there are good things ahead.
“I had mixed emotions really. It was my whole life—I never would have dreamed I would still be there after 60 years. You never know what life has in store for you,” he says.
The Brandts were ready to travel in early 2020, but those plans went on hold and are just now starting to be renewed. “After January 31, we were sort of all dressed up with nowhere to go. So we’d pick up coffee and go watch them demo the bowling center,” George says. “We still have some things on our bucket list.”
Diana’s charitable and fundraising work reflects her 30 years as a fitness instructor. She has ridden her bike from San Francisco to Malibu to raise money for rheumatoid arthritis research, ridden from Redlands to Palm Springs for multiple sclerosis, walked from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles for breast cancer research, and played golf for Mammoth Lakes Hospital.
Her next big fundraising event is a virtual marathon for the eighth anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon. A family friend, John Odom, survived the bombing, and Diana will walk 26 miles with John’s wife, Karen, and 20 others to raise money for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where he was treated.
“I like to be involved. I like to know what is going on. And I always like to do things that help somebody else,” she says.
Diana’s friend and former business partner Bonnie McDonald is never surprised to hear about Diana’s good works. The two ran an exercise studio called The Bodi Connection for four years before they took the business to South End Racquet and Health Club.
“She has always helped people who needed help. There is never grass growing under her feet,” Bonnie says. “She is a wonderful grandmother and a wonderful wife and mother. I think she is really to be admired.”
Diana moved to Palos Verdes when she was 10. Her father, Ralph Labbitt, was an engineer at McDonnell Douglas. She has happy memories of the amazing things he did, such as hiking Mount Whitney.
“Being the oldest of three girls, I just wanted to do stuff my dad did,” she says. “He was just always wanting to do things himself. He was self-motivated, and that encouraged me.”
George says he and Diana are fortunate to be in good health. They haven’t needed much in the way of medical treatment at the hospital, though Diana will have a knee replacement soon. They are both pleased it can be done at Torrance Memorial.
The Brandts keep fit with golf, workouts at their gym, Pilates for Diana and a full schedule. There is never a shortage of things to do and people to see. “My middle name is connection. I like to connect,” Diana says.
During the last 30 years, Helen and Pasquale Theodora have worked and played with the Brandts. Helen says they’ve traveled the world together, served in charity groups together and helped each other through tough times.
“Diana is everybody’s best friend because she’s always there for you. It’s just the way she is. For anybody who has a problem, she’ll help them. She’ll work it out for them,” Helen says. “And George backs her up on all of this.”
Diana sees their work for Torrance Memorial as a true ambassadorship. She is grateful to have a world-class hospital in her community, and it makes perfect sense to support it in a way that helps everyone around.
“I encourage other people to become an Ambassador or a Patron,” she says. “Why wouldn’t we contribute? That’s the way we look at it.” •