Robert “Duke” Bradley Sr., executive director of Chelsea Community Cable Television for more than 30 years, died on Aug. 12 following a sudden illness.
Mr. Bradley was a lifelong resident of Chelsea and one of its most popular and admired individuals. Known for his warm personality, his charisma, his sense of humor, his splendid, color-coordinated attire and his strikingly handsome countenance, Mr. Bradley found the perfect second career as the executive director of the local cable station.
Already recognized for his dedication and service to the city and many felt he would have been an outstanding mayor of Chelsea, Duke thrived in his capacity as the first-and-only executive director of the station. He received numerous awards and citations for his excellent work and his devotion to Chelsea.
Obligated only to televise governmental meetings, Mr. Bradley, “Duke or Dukie” as he was affectionately called, made it a point to extend the station’s coverage to social, educational, athletic, and news events throughout the city. He encouraged residents to produce shows and personally hosted election night shows that viewers enjoyed so much.
Duke was welcomed everywhere in the city and the greetings were always warm and sincere from people who gravitated toward him at events such as Chamber of Commerce dinners and CHS sports contests.
“Duke was a larger-than-life personality in Chelsea,” said Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson. “When he was in the room, people wanted to interact with him and he was so cordial and kind to all. He was a great storyteller and had a tremendous sense of humor. We have lost an all-time great. He will be missed.”
Duke Bradley would often tell the story of how as a young man he would be called upon to put on and shut off the lights on the Sabbath for the Orthodox Jewish congregation at the Walnut Street Synagogue. The Jewish community never forgot his kindnesses and it loved him dearly as did people of all ethnicities.
Roy Avellaneda, councillor-at-large and local business owner, said, “I was saddened to hear of the passing of Duke Bradley. I came to know Duke from his work at Chelsea Cable. We would always joke about who was better dressed when we were at formal community events. Of course, he was always the best dressed. His positive demeanor was contagious.”
Rich Cuthie, executive director of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, lauded Mr. Bradley’s contributions to the Chamber while also noting his princely apparel.
“Last night in France I was very saddened to learn via Facebook of Duke’s passing,” said Cuthie. “As the leader of Chelsea Community TV, he was valued as a long-time Chamber member and as a true partner covering Chamber events and initiatives, and all things Chelsea.
“Above all, however, “Dapper Duke” as I called him, was not just the best dressed man in Chelsea, he was a true gentleman and a class act,” said Cuthie.
Ricky Velez had the honor of working at the local cable TV station for two decades, the last 10 years as technical director.
“Duke was an amazing man, always upbeat, always showing me to enjoy life,” said Velez. “He always put family first. He had the best sense of humor. He treated everybody with respect. He was one of the best bosses I ever had.”
A Proud and Devoted Family Man
Duke was devoted to his family and especially proud of his grandchildren, who brought fame and acclaim to the Bradley name.
Duke and his beautiful wife, Dorothy (Fee) shared 58 years of marriage. They were an inseparable pair who loved to travel and spend time with their family.
They were so proud of their children and had plenty to be proud of. Their daughter, Paula Bradley Batchelor, helped the TV station grow and become a local institution and she was there from its incorporation in 1988. She has continued to be instrumental to the success of the station.
The Bradley’s son, Robert Jr. has achieved much success as an architect and is a credit to the family name.
An avid sports fan, Mr. Bradley became particularly immersed in Boston College athletics when Paula became a Division 1 college cheerleader for the Eagles during the exciting Doug Flutie era. His strong connection to Boston College was rekindled when his grandson, 6-foot-4-inch Austin Bachelor, became a student there and was a member of the Boston College baseball team.
But Austin, following the lead of his three athletically gifted brothers, had already provided his grandfather enough memories to last a lifetime when he starred on the Peabody Western Little League team that advanced to Little League World Series in Williamsport. Duke was front and center in the Peabody rooting section and it was a true family affair – his son-in-law, now-Chelsea Police Capt. David Batchelor, was the manager of the team and all the Bradleys and Batchelors were much a part of the hoopla. And Austin brought great joy to his grandparents throughout the unforgettable journey from Peabody and Lynn to Bristol (Conn.) and Williamsport, especially when the All-Star pitcher and catcher slugged a home run over the fence in a World Series game on national television.
Duke would become a fan of Swampscott athletics and happenings, too, closely following the athletic and academic successes of Robert and Kimberly (Brown) Bradley’s children.
And Duke’s allegiance had previously extended south to the University of Arkansas where he watched his relative, Pat Bradley of Everett, become the Southeastern Conference’s all-time three-point king.
Jay Ash, former city manager, said he went all the way back with Mr. Bradley to his days of growing up on Cottage Street where the Bradley family also resided. Jay attended kindergarten at the Shurtleff School with Paula Bradley. They graduated together from Chelsea High School in 1979.
“To me, Dukie represented the very best of what Chelsea represented,” said Ash. “He was a loyal guy who was a great family man and a terrific citizen of the community. He was very visible on the streets not only because of his running, but also because he was at every event for decades. He always had a smile on his face and always had a kind word or greeting for people.”
Ash enjoyed his conversations and interactions with Dukie.
“I have had the opportunity to talk to him about sports, community, family, and education – he was just an inspiration,” said Ash. My heart goes out to the entire family.”
Dr. Mary Bourque, superintendent of Chelsea schools, appreciated the professional coverage Mr. Bradley gave students in the district for their extracurricular and athletic achievements. The station always covered well events such as National Honor Society induction ceremonies, the year-end CHS sports awards night, and the CHS commencement exercises.
A CHS alumnus herself and daughter of esteemed local historian George Ostler, Dr. Bourque knew from personal experience how revered Duke Bradley was by all who knew him in the city.
“I’m just so sad about Duke’s passing,” said Bourque. “He was a gentleman, always full of life and joy and pure kindness to everyone. He never had a bad word to say about anyone in life. I have just the utmost respect for him and his family. It’s a true loss to Chelsea and we have lost an icon.”
CBC President Joan Cromwell Pays Tribute to Duke Bradley
Upon hearing about Duke Bradley’s passing, Joan Cromwell, president of the Chelsea Black Community whose family has known and admired Duke Bradley for many years, wrote a beautiful tribute to the Chelsea legend:
My Thoughts On An Icon
Sad, sad day in our city
I pray our city flag is flying at half-staff
Duke Bradley…Chelsea born, Chelsea bred, Chelsea beloved, Chelsea’s best
Duke Bradley…He came from US, walked with US, believed in US, and gave us the platform to tell our life, our history, our many stories
Duke Bradley…Proudly the sharpest dapper gentleman in town, admired, respected, and loved by All.
There is a beautiful dove in Heaven…Duke Bradley
Sad and mournful are thy ways, Grieving, wailing Summer days!
I (we) love you.
God rest your Soul and may you Rest in Perfect Peace
Joan Cromwell and family
Chelsea Black Community family