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 on April 1, 2014 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 fast wit, kindness and I found myself laughing most of the time in his presence. He had a special knack for making people feel good about themselves. 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 and his four sisters Edith (King), Helen (Tobicoe), Voila (Bradt) and Lorraine, along with brother Bill on the family farm in Six Nations. Although life was hard for everybody, back in the 1930s and 40s, 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 walk in all kinds of weather to elementary and then high school in Hagersville, Ontario near Hamilton.
At 19 years of age, the Second World War called on he and his brother Bill for their service. Amazingly, he endured, survived and excelled in carrying out his duties as a Sergeant on a 25 pound gun with service over five years and three months in England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. As his son, John Jr, confided in me, he left a boy and came back a man with a lifetime of experiences. John Sr’s brother Bill, although wounded also returned. As a life long member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Hagersville Branch 164, John Sr. was one of the few remaining Native veterans of the Second World War.
On their return to Six Nations, John Sr and his brother Bill joined the family to work the farm. He 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 limited 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. He didn’t see the colour of people in any detrimental way and like the words of Martin Luther King, he valued ‘the content of their character’. John Sr passed on a great work ethic, the importance of honesty and a kind sense of humour to his own children. There was nothing complicated about John Sr and what you saw was what you got. His children 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 so many lives she and John Sr have touched.
When his great grand daughter 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.
Xavier Kataquapit’s writings can be viewed on his website at www.underthenorthernsky.com