Photo: Bill Bradley. (Bradley family)
For about 40 years William “Bill” Bradley and his cousin Kent, both neighbours on Manchester Street in Stittsville, shared a snowblower that they used to clear each other’s walks.
As Bill got older, well into his 80s, he started wanting to clear both of the walks himself, Kent said.
“It got to a point where he said he would try to start it, give it four pulls, (and) if it didn’t start on the fourth pull then it was my turn to do the lane ways,” Kent said.
This only stopped when the old snowblower finally gave in after years of service — then Bill subscribed to a plowing service.
This was the first story that came to Kent’s mind when reflecting on Bill’s life. Bill died on Aug. 19, one day shy of his 94th birthday.
Bill had been a well-known figure in the Stittsville community for decades because of his 43-year ownership of Bradley’s General Store, which was an essential community hub for many years in Stittsville’s early days. He was 19 in 1943 when his father, who had started the store in 1914, died. Because of the death and the fact his mother was pregnant, Bill was discharged from the Royal Canadian Air Force immediately to return home and tend to his family.
At the time, the general store dealt in everything from farm tools to daily groceries and was a heavy responsibility for a 19-year-old to take on, said Rich Bradley, one of Bill’s sons.
“A very, very complex business and at 19, he got dropped into that,” Rich said. “I would remind my boys… from time to time if they were feeling bad about where they were in their late teens, they were a lot better off (than that).”
In 1961, Bill moved the store from its original location at 1518 Stittsville Main Street (a building that burned down a few years ago) and located it further south on the street, near the Canada Post office. While running the store, he was also a volunteer firefighter.
When he retired, the store was passed on to his son Paul who turned it into an Independent Grocer which the Browns now own.
Kent recalled one year he spent in the 1950s, working in Bill’s store.
“It took me a year when I got out of high school trying to find myself. Bill gave me a job and I actually enjoyed it, it was a good experience,” Kent said.
He said Bill was a laid-back boss, whom he saw get angry only once.
“It was a customer that was I guess you could say was inebriated and… Bill showed him the door very quickly.”
Rich said Bill was a very quiet person, best remembered for being a “quiet, gentle and very wise person.”
“Dad’s attitude… was a lesson for all of us to count our blessings rather then dwell on our problems,” Rich said.
Rich said he was best exemplified by the universal respect people had for him. This respect was demonstrated last year, when a park was named after him.
Kent said Bill didn’t change much over the years and remained sharp even into an advanced age. Outwardly, an understandably more frail body was really the only change, he said.
Bill married Isabel Audrey Wilson in 1947, the same year he built the house on Manchester which they lived in through their marriage. She died in 2011. He moved out about two years ago to live in his cottage in Rideau Ferry, Rich said. The house was demolished this spring by the new owner, who said the old house was in poor shape.
In the 2000s, Bill began a tradition with Isabel and the rest of the Bradley family: They would drive to the cottage every Friday for their own “happy hour”. This became such a tradition that Rich bought him a neon sign: “Bradley’s Happy Hour.”
“It’s glowing in front of me right here,” Rich said, who spoke from the cottage on Friday afternoon. “It’s quite a novelty, dad would turn it on every Friday at 5.”
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