If the comings and goings of people can be compared to a pebble tossed into a lake and the resulting ripples that radiate infinitely, then I would say that the passing of John R. Bradley, a member of Six Nations, will bless many with a spirit of good nature and humour for generations. His life was all about sacrifice, dedication and doing his very best for family and friends. He passed away April 1 at the age of 94.
When I first met him many years ago through my friends John Jr. and Patty Bradley, I was impressed with his quick wit and kindness. In his presence, I found myself laughing most of the time. He had a special knack for making people feel good. As a matter of fact, all of his children share that trait of a special type of humour.
John Bradley Sr. lost his father early in his life but thankfully his mother Emma (Montour) Bradley raised him, brother Bill and his four sisters – Edith (King), Helen (Tobicoe), Voila (Bradt) and Lorraine – on the family farm in Six Nations.
Although life was hard for everybody back in the 1930s and 1940s, John Sr. had the comfort of his large family, the produce and production of a 90-acre farm and a tight-knit community revolving around Six Nations and Hagersville. He knew education was a big deal and he persevered with the many kilometre daily walks in all kinds of weather to elementary and high school in Hagersville, near Hamilton, Ontario.
At 19, the Second World War called him and Bill to service. Amazingly, he endured, survived and excelled in carrying out his duties as a Sergeant on a 25-pound gun during five years and three months in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. As his son, John Jr., confided, he left a boy and came back a man with a lifetime of experiences. Brother Bill, although wounded, also returned. As a life-long member of Hagersville Branch 164 of the Royal Canadian Legion, John Sr. was one of the few remaining Native veterans of the Second World War.
On their return to Six Nations, John and Bill went back to work on the farm. John also had a job as a fireman at the army camp outside of Hagersville. Due to his respect and friendship with Natives and non-Natives alike, he secured a position with the Canadian Gypsum Company in their local mine. He had much success and worked with the company for 38 years.
Through his childhood and his quest for education, his dedication and service to Canada in the most terrorizing conditions you can imagine for almost six years in Europe and his return to start a long-term career and family, John Sr. always saw himself as a person who could survive and succeed.
There was nothing complicated about John Sr and what you saw was what you got. He didn’t see the colour of people in any detrimental way. As Martin Luther King said, he valued, “the content of their character.” John Sr. passed on a great work ethic, the importance of honesty and a gentle sense of humour to his own children. They carry on that that sense of character and they include: John Jr. (Patty) Bradley, Russell (Debbie) Bradley, Laurie (Fred) Lambert, Ronald Bradley (Elsie) and Luanne (Chris) Martin. He has also blazed a trail for many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild.
Lucky for John Sr., when he was a young man, he found a secret weapon that turned a very good man into a spectacular human being. That secret weapon was his wife Norma (Russell) Bradley, who stood by him for 65 years, on the long and steady walk which was his life trail. Their love of life, family, friends and community has endeared them both to so many. Thankfully, Norma will continue to be a part of the many lives that she and John Sr. have touched.
When his great-granddaughter Brynn Vokes raised her voice in song during the memorial there was not a dry eye in the building. These were not tears of sadness but of joy for a life well lived and hope for the future. An old warrior has gone home.