Community icon dies at 90


One of the community’s most successful businessmen and philanthropists, John D. Bradley died Saturday at age 90.

Bradley, John edit for web
John D. Bradley

Born on a farm in Dover Twp. in 1925, Bradley farmed until enlisting in World War Two. When he returned, he embarked on a business career that shaped virtually all of north east Chatham.

Projects such as Thames Lea Mall, The Wheels Inn, the Birdland subdivision, Thames Towers, the Union Gas building and the Holiday Inn were all part of his legacy.

The municipality named the John D. Bradley Convention Centre in his honour.

Mayor Randy Hope said Bradley was a trailblazer who left his mark on the community and championed the cause of Chatham.

“When someone spoke of Chatham, they’d talk about the Wheels and Union Gas,” he said. “Mr. Bradley built the Wheels and was on the board at Union Gas.”

Bradley was more than a businessman, founding the Chatham Kent Community Foundation in 1990.

Jim Wickett, chair of the foundation board of directors, said John had seen similar foundations in other communities and brought the idea here.

“He was an astute businessman but he was equally committed to making his community better,” he said. “It was due to John’s leadership that we have a foundation that now has an endowment fund of $5 million dollars and we give away several hundred thousand dollars each year to community groups. Since we only contribute our income each year, the foundation is something that will help our community forever. We can accomplish a great deal of good thanks to John’s foresight.”

Longtime Chatham city manager Hugh Thomas

worked with Bradley on numerous projects.

“In all of our negotiations with John, his word was his bond,” said Thomas. “He made a very positive impression on this community which will have lasting effects.”

He said Bradley’s ability to garner support for the Chatham-Kent Community Foundation galvanized the project.

“He individually promoted the idea to city council who were successful in obtaining special provincial legislation establishing the foundation,” Thomas said.


Dean Bradley, one of John’s four sons, said his father was a great mentor in business and life.

“He had such a large influence on so many people,” Dean said. “I was lucky enough to work side by side with him for years.”

A man “who was never bored”, Dean said his father was always “sparking” with one idea or another.

“His mind was so active that he could be discussing one idea, switch to another and then come back to the first without missing a beat.”

A remembrance service will be held September 21 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the convention centre that bears his name.


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