BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor man who made his mark in professional, civic, public service and other circles died late Monday afternoon. He was in his mid-90s at the time of his death.
Perhaps better known as “Pappy,” Merrill Bradford had been in declining health in recent weeks, friends said Monday evening.
Born in St. Pamphile, Quebec, Bradford was a 1939 graduate of the University of Maine and a 1942 graduate of Harvard Law School, according to news stories in the Bangor Daily News archives. After he was admitted to the bar, Bradford served a tour with the Army Air Forces in the Central Pacific, earning a commendation for his part in a major military trial.
He then moved to Bangor and in the 1940s became one of the early partners in the Bangor law firm Eaton Peabody. In Bangor his career in law flourished and he and his wife, Wilma, became involved in numerous civic causes and raised their four children, M. Ray Bradford, John Bradford, Lynn Cyr and Ann Ligums.
Among the community organizations he belonged to, and often led, were the Anah Temple Shrine, the Bangor City Club and the Tarratine Club.
On Monday, friends remembered Bradford as a man who loved his family, his community and his career.
“Pappy lived life to the fullest. Whether standing in front of a courtroom or surrounded by friends at a social setting, Pappy’s presence was known. He enjoyed life and wanted others to as well. The community has lost one of its legends,” said John Bragg, a longtime friend who recently retired as chairman of the board of NH Bragg.
Another longtime friend, Bangor Daily News publisher Richard Warren, had this to say:
“Having known Merrill R. ‘Pappy’ Bradford for as long as I can remember knowing almost anyone in my life, I have had the unique perspective of watching him ‘grow up.’ His facile humor oft masked, intentionally I think, a bright, insightful mind. I shall truly miss him.”
Bangor attorney Bernard Kubetz, a longtime colleague at Eaton Peabody, described Bradford as “incorrigible and unforgettable. He was bigger than life. Way bigger.
“Pappy’s personality, always upbeat and joyful, filled and then spilled out of any room that he occupied. He loved all people, especially females. It was hard for anyone who knew or worked with Pappy not to love him in return,” Kubetz said.
“Given his ebullient personality and presence, it is easy to forget that Pappy was highly respected for his professional acumen,” he added. “His forte was estate planning and he rose to high office in the American Bar Association and as a member of the Board of Maine Bar Examiners.
“He believed in giving back to the community and profession that allowed him to prosper and he encouraged all of his law partners to volunteer time, skill and energy to many of our state’s nonprofit organizations. Pappy enriched our community, and he made my law firm a better place to work. He made all of us smile, and sometimes even blush,” Kubetz said.
Retired banker William Bullock, a close friend for decades, said Bradford and his wife were a force to be reckoned with.
“He was a devoted family man,” Bullock said, adding that Bradford and his wife had been married for more than 60 years. “They were involved in everything,” he said, citing the University of Maine, the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and the United Way as some examples.
“He was a wonderful friend who was literally and figuratively bigger than life itself,” Bullock recalled of his friend.
“He prided himself on always having a new, short ‘colorful’ joke. As former president of the Tarratine Club, he really prided himself on his prowess on the cribbage board and the bridge table. He was one of kind, gregarious, humorous. He always had a twinkle in his eye,” Bullock said.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Brookings-Smith Funeral Home in Bangor. Arrangements were still pending Monday night.