By Melody Finnemore
The war in Iraq hit home for John F. Bradach Sr. and his family on July 2, 2003.
John was at work at his Lloyd District law office when his wife, Cathy, called to tell him that three marines were trying to locate his sister, Lynn Bradach, whose 21-year-old son, Travis, was serving in Iraq.
"Cathy said she was worried that Travis had been hurt and I said, ‘He’s not hurt, he’s gone,’" John says.
Marine Corps Corporal Travis Bradach-Nall had volunteered to clear land mines near Karbala when he was killed in an explosion. His funeral drew hundreds of mourners and international media attention.
Travis’ death was the second devastating loss for John, his nine younger brothers and sisters, and their families that year. John’s parents died in a car fire near their Mount Hood cabin in March 2003.
He channeled his sorrow into activism, joining Lynn to raise money in Travis’ memory for Adopt-A-Minefield. Inspired by Princess Diana and championed by Heather and Paul McCartney, the organization works to clear unexploded ordnance left by wars throughout the world and helps those injured in minefields pay for prosthetics and other assistance.
They raised about $11,000 last year and this year’s goal is $25,000. Lynn raised $7,000 at Adopt-A-Minefield’s annual gala in October, where she spoke to and got a standing ovation from a crowd that included the McCartneys, Neil Young and other celebrities. The Bradach family and friends raised more money through the annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. in late October. Lynn and Travis had planned to run the marathon together.
"Lynn told me I could do it, but I didn’t think I could run a marathon because I was about 30 pounds heavier then," John says. "I thought maybe I could walk it, so I started getting in shape."
His training involved six-hour walks that took him from his Alameda home to Vancouver, Beaverton, Sauvie Island and Lake Oswego. In October, he walked 20 miles of the Portland Marathon and flooded friends and acquaintances with email donation requests as part of "Team Minesweepers" in the Marine Corps Marathon.
"Team Minesweepers was a mix of family and friends, runners and walkers, all of whom asked for donations to AAM in Travis’ memory as part of the event," he says.
John credits Lynn with doing most of the Adopt-A-Minefield fundraising while he turned his attention to Democratic politics, supporting John Kerry’s campaign. It was the most politically active he had been since college, though his interest in politics goes back to a chance encounter with Bobby Kennedy on the way home from school during the 1968 Oregon primary campaign.
"I later took my brothers to see a campaign event at 39th and Hawthorne where Bobby rode by standing on the trunk of a red convertible, with Rosey Grier holding on to his belt. It was such a great event, and then he was dead 10 days later," John says.
He graduated the following year from Central Catholic High School, enrolled at Portland State University and worked as a construction laborer and a crewman for Riedel International, where his father was an executive. John earned an accounting degree from the University of Oregon in 1974, worked on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for a year and eventually returned to marry Cathy and work in Riedel’s accounting office while going to law school at Lewis & Clark College. He clerked at Davies, Biggs, Strayer, Stoel and Boley and later joined the construction and design law section at the firm – which had become Stoel Rives — after graduating in 1979. He became a partner six years later, but wanted to strike out on his own.
"I’d always had an itch to have my own practice. Over time I thought about leaving and I came really close in 1989. But I was also really busy with projects like the Mentor Graphics campus and I was afraid some clients might fall through the cracks if I left then."
John finally established his own construction and design law practice in 1993. During the past decade, he has ridden the industry’s highs and lows.
"The industry has been slow anyway this year and my practice is in a pretty Republican-oriented industry, so it’s possible that my political activities have been counter-productive for client development," John says with a smile. "I have been willing to absorb those losses for something I feel strongly about. But now, with Bush’s win, I hope my friends in the industry are in a forgiving and bipartisan mood."
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Melody Finnemore is a Portland-area freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Bulletin.
Donations in Marine Corps Corporal Travis Bradach-Nall’s memory can be made payable to Adopt-A-Minefield, c/o Bradach Law Offices, 700 N.E. Multnomah Street, Suite 900, Portland, OR 97232.
© 2004 Melody Finnemore