Judge Bradley dies of cancer
August 8, 2005
Family and fishing. Loyal. Honest. Fair. Those words and others were used to describe William Henry Bradley, who died Friday from complications of liver cancer.
He was 58.
Bradley was professionally known as the South Lake Tahoe commissioner of El Dorado County Superior Court, judging matters from family law to juvenile dependency several days a week.
Kingsbury’s ‘utility hitter’
Appointed commissioner by Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury in June 2000, those in the legal profession who knew Bradley recalled a dependable man with a passion for the outdoors.
“He basically was, for lack of a better expression, my utility hitter,” Kingsbury said. “He would do anything and everything I asked of him with a smile on his face. I never had to worry about things not being done in a professional and appropriate manner.”
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With curly, white hair and a bushy beard, Bradley would sometimes be mistaken for Santa Claus by children. He never dressed up as St. Nick at Christmastime, but maintained the man’s mythic jolly character, son and namesake Bill Bradley said.
Apart from the love of his family and Cheryl, his wife of 38 years, Bradley was most known for his passion to fish, which sometimes sparked friendly rivalries.
Hook, line and Phimister
Judge Douglas Phimister remembered a fishing trip to a spot off Ice House Road. The two took Phimister’s 17-foot boat. While Phimister drove, Bradley sat in back, enjoying better luck and subsequent bragging rights back at the courthouse.
On the next trip, Bradley caught only one fish to Phimister’s two. Phimister said he gleefully told people his fish count doubled that of his friend’s catch.
Opening day of the fishing season at Bridgeport with a group of family and friends was an annual ritual, as was a “guy’s fishing trip” to Pyramid Lake.
Phimister frequently lived with Bradley in 2000 and 2001 when the two would stay at a South Lake Tahoe apartment for work purposes. Both resided off the hill.
Phimister recalled his friend as a good roommate, one who would sometimes be reading or fiddling with a guitar.
Bradley was known as a people person and could discuss mostly anything under the sun. He kept up on current events and politics. The San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Sacramento Kings were his favorite teams.
Lifelong friend Charlie Balogh grew up with Bradley in Escondido. On politics, Bradley, a Republican, was wary of Democrats or anyone with an opposing view, Balogh said.
“You don’t ever disagree with him because he could talk you out of it,” Balogh said.
But the differences in politics didn’t seem to burn any bridges or cost any potential friendships.
“He probably had more friends than anyone I can think of,” Balogh said.
The love for family – Judge Jerald Lasarow said his friend used weekends to make his Kelsey home as “comfortable as possible” – might have lured Bradley into the area of family law, his sister, Nancy Bradley, said.
“My brother Bill never made an enemy,” Nancy Bradley said.
Court Referee Stephen Valentine had similar words about Bradley.
“People seemed to like him whether (they represented the) prevailing party or not,” said Valentine, who described Bradley as “everyone’s grandpa.”
Jennifer Kline, court advocate for the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center, once wrote a letter to Bradley praising him for his independence in judging restraining order and child custody issues in family court.
“He always remained unbiased and was objective and seemed like a very gentle man,” Kline said.
After getting his law degree at Western State University, where he also obtained his undergraduate degree, Bradley was enrolled into the State Bar of California on Dec. 22, 1976.
He was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. His weight dropped from 215 pounds to 135 pounds, said Phimister, who was shocked when he saw Bradley had shaved his beard into a goatee.
Chemotherapy swung Bradley’s health and mood, but during a July 31 hospital visit, Phimister thought his friend was getting better.
“I honestly thought he would make it,” Phimister said.
On Friday, Bradley was surrounded by friends and family at Sutter Hospital in Sacramento, said his sister, Nancy Bradley.
“He waited for all of us to leave before he left,” she said.
After his death, Nancy went to Bradley’s home to help console her sister-in-law and family. During the visit, a frog hopped into the house. Nancy, who said she is afraid of the amphibians, suspected her brother was playing a trick on her.
“I can just stand there and see my brother laughing,” Nancy said.
Bradley is survived by his wife Cheryl, daughter Kim Bradley, son Bill Bradley and other family members. An obituary will run in Wednesday’s edition of the Tahoe Daily Tribune.