At 39, North Mankato woman youngest area victim of COVID-19

Natalie Rademacher, The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.
·4 min read

Mar. 14—Brandy Roberts possessed a strong empathy for helping others and lived a colorful life. She cared deeply about people and filled her home with decor and seasonal and holiday displays.

Roberts was only 39 when she died of COVID-19 on Dec. 6.

She had rheumatoid lung disease, which made her more susceptible to complications from the novel coronavirus. She is the youngest person in the Mankato region to die of complications from COVID-19, according to data from the Office of Vital Records.

Fishing with her husband and spending time with her black Labrador, Bailey, were Brandy's two loves, said Valerie Roberts, her mother-in-law.

Brandy and her husband, Jared Roberts, met on the Plenty of Fish dating site in 2015.

"We just clicked," Jared said.

She eventually moved from her hometown of Sleepy Eye (where she was Brandy Sellner) to the Mankato area to be closer to Jared. The two married in 2018. They liked spending time together fishing at the family cabin in northern Minnesota.

Brandy had a knack for decorating and wanted to be a decorator. Brandy and Jared's home in North Mankato was decked out for all the major holidays.

There are bins in the house filled with Easter, Valentine's Day and Christmas decorations. Brandy enjoyed sprucing up the home and created a coffee station decorated with cute signs and mugs. Valerie consulted Brandy when working on her own home.

"She loved doing that kind of stuff and was good at it," Valerie said.

Family describe Brandy as kind, generous and family-oriented. She had a strong bond with her aunt and the two would go on shopping trips together. She was always there to greet Jared when he got home from work.

Brandy's mother died when she was 6 years old. Brandy talked often about her mother and would say she can't wait to see her mom again some day.

About a year into her and Jared's marriage, Brandy was diagnosed with rheumatoid lung disease — lung problems related to rheumatoid arthritis — and learned she needed a double lung transplant. Brandy was on a waiting list to receive a transplant when the pandemic hit and surgeries were paused.

Due to the increased risk of complications from COVID-19, Brandy wasn't able to return to her job as a shuttle bus driver at Minnesota State University after campus shut down last March. MSU staff donated vacation days that allowed Brandy to stay home and still receive pay during the pandemic.

Brandy hunkered down, mostly staying home and wearing a mask if she went out.

"She was being really careful," Valerie said.

In November, Brandy was taken to the emergency room because she was having trouble breathing. There she tested positive for COVID-19.

She fought the virus for a few weeks, spending 17 days at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Family wasn't able to visit and had to rely on video chat.

Brandy spent five days on a ventilator and her family made the decision to take her off of it. Jared was able to visit her in the hospital on the day she died. Valerie and other family members watched on video from the basement parking lot of the clinic.

Family gathered for a small funeral service in December, but a celebration of life was postponed because of the pandemic.

Even while she was sick, her love for decorating showed through. She helped Valerie pick out a paint color for her basement while in the hospital. Valerie would text Brandy pictures of colors and various woods from Home Depot and ask for input.

Brandy also ordered Christmas decorations and holiday gifts for family and friends before she died. Amazon and Target packages arrived at the house while she was in the hospital.

Valerie used Brandy's notes and journals to piece together who the gifts were for and ensured family members received their gifts from Brandy.

"She was just always thinking of others," Valerie said.

Last May, before Brandy got COVID-19, she wrote letters to family members in case anything happened to her.

"It was just something I think she thought about because of her lung disease," Valerie said. Brandy dealt with a lot of pain because of her illness, Valerie said, but never complained because she didn't want to hurt people.

"She cared about people and was very brave and courageous for what she went through," Valerie said.