Manchester resident of 62 years, John Bradley, passed on January 30 after a fierce and heroic struggle with COVID-19. He was 98 years old. He was a devoted family man who was a source of love and support to Jane, his wife, his children and his many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was born into a Brahmin family where he was instilled the old Bostonian virtues of politeness, reliability and a sense of noblesse oblige. Throughout his life, as an engineer and scientist, he had an intense and insatiable curiosity that remained until his death.
While John and Jane Bradley moved to Manchester in 1959 just after the birth of their fourth child, Didi, the town played an important role throughout his entire life. In fact, John was born in a taxicab because his mother was waiting for the son of Manchester resident Charles Cobb Walker’s son to be born, and the doctor could not attend to both births at the same time.
John was born September 27, 1922, a son of Ralph Bradley and Eleanor (Cabot) Bradley of Boston. He attended the Fenn School and was in Groton School’s class of 1940. He went to Williams College and sped up his studies when the United States went into World War II in order to enlist. While in military training in the South, he finished up his coursework at the University of Alabama and at the Louisiana State University Department of Petroleum Engineering. When he was discharged from service in 1946, he earned his master’s degree from MIT.
He began his career in 1947 as an engineer for Exxon in Baton Rouge Louisiana. In 1949, he came back to Boston to join the family business, the Cabot Corporation. That year, he met and fell in love with his wife of 65 years, Jane Dysart Carpenter. They married on September 14th, 1950. They immediately moved to Franklin, Louisiana where John worked as an engineer in the Cabot carbon black plant. In 1953, they moved to Pampa Texas where he worked at another carbon black plant. In 1957, they moved back to New England. They settled temporarily in a rented house in Essex while the Manchester housing was being built.
Despite his sometimes shy and genteel Bostonian exterior, John was passionate about many things – sailing, skiing, canoeing, science, creative thinking and, above all, his family and friends. He was an expert sailor and won numerous awards. He was the National Flying Tern champion in 1967 and 1969. He went on to compete internationally in Holland in 1969 with daughter, Julie, as his crew. In 1927, his family was one of the few pioneering skiers. At the age of six John attended the first ski school in the United States at Pickett’s Hill in Sugar Hill New Hampshire. From that, he developed a strong love for skiing, and gleefully introduced his children to the sport. He became an avid cross-country skier before it became popular in the United States.
John was an “out of the box thinker.” One example of this was the annual Easter party that he and Jane hosted. After a sumptuous meal, the guests would have to work off their Easter dinner by going on a fox hunt, except that in this hunt, the fox was a human. The “human fox” (a volunteer guest) had a 100-pound knapsack of leaking cracked corn on the back which served as the scent. Forty minutes after the fox started, the “hound dog guests” were released to catch the fox using the leaked cracked corn as the “scent.” On the day of the 2002 Easter party, when the nation was still wary from the 9/11 attack, ever alert Manchester resident, Jim Dudley, was startled to see a strange human running in his woods with a large knapsack. When this “human fox” dropped the knapsack and continued to run, Jim called the police. Police Officer Dick Lysiak responded to the call and together Jim and Dick cautiously approached the knapsack to find only a fox puppet and a mostly empty bag of cracked corn. (See Manchester Cricket, April 5, 2002.) When Jim found out that it was just a Bradley fox hunt, he was persuaded to call the Bradley residence on his cell. A mystified Jane Bradley answered the phone, and disguised as the fox, Jim told her that he was the fox and was in jail for camping without a permit. He told her she had to come to the Manchester jail to bail him out.
John’s insatiable curiosity was legendary. He received numerous patents throughout his lifetime. He found innovative ways to waterproof goose down jackets, create passive solar heat devices and his last scientific effort was as a limited partner with Ethanol Boosting Systems that developed a truck engine that could go 200 miles on a gallon. John was extremely concerned about finding solutions for global warming. He earned his last patent on this effort when he was in his nineties.
Perhaps John will be most remembered for his deep and genuine love for his family and friends. His grandchildren have best described this love. Granddaughter, Katrina Cornell, reflected, “He didn't care so deeply about combating climate change because he believed, even in a world without COVID, that he might actually live to be affected by it, but rather because caring about it and trying to find/support/facilitate solutions was one of the ways he expressed his love for those of us who came after him--his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and many other friends and family members.” Granddaughter, Camilla Bradley, said, “He was raised in a different world, where people did things ‘the right way;’ with dignity, with integrity, with fullness of heart and mind. And, in many ways, I worry that he was the last of his kind. I am trying, diligently, to embody my Grandpa Johnny's spirit, so that I might bring some of his goodness and light back into a world that so badly needs it. My grandpa was larger than life, in voice, in intellect, and, most importantly, in heart. He was easily the most lovable person I know.”
John was predeceased by his beloved wife. He is survived by his four children and spouses - Julie Bradley, Ralph Bradley and John Mahi, Frank and Adrienne Bradley and Didi and Richard Blau. He is also survived by many loving grandchildren and great grandchildren. Contributions may be made in his name to Museum of Science, Boston 1 Science Park Boston, MA 02114 Attn: Annual Giving. His celebration services will be determined at a later date.
He will be missed by all.
Finally, John Bradley’s family wishes to thank the residents of Manchester for their contribution to his joyful and blessed life.