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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Donald Bradtke 1922-2014

Reading on the porch
They say moving is as traumatic as having a death in the family. Recently, there has been a depressing trend for both things to happen in the same year. This time, my father died after a long and varied life. While he had been declining in the past few years, the final illness was mercifully short. I heard he was in the hospital in the middle of the afternoon, and by the wee small hours of the morning he had gone. He wasn’t perfect, but he was the best dad we could ever have asked for.  

He loved life, and people; loved to crack jokes (and his jokes were unashamedly off color or politically incorrect at times). His conversations were always punctuated with full-throated laughter. A lifelong athlete, he encouraged those of us with similar interests, and helped us develop our skills but more importantly, didn’t push the siblings who had no sporty inclination. He was always doing things for us, going hundreds of miles out of the way on a family car trip because I wanted to visit Nashville, or turning around and driving back to a motel because my older brother had left his beloved stuffed dog behind. He helped us move, we built things together, and he was always there when we needed him. He loved to sing with great gusto, and dance with abandon, though he freely admitted to a complete lack of skill in either art. I have fond memories of fishing, hiking and picnics in his company where we would dine on sardines and saltines with an apple or perhaps a piece of licorice for dessert. We would often laugh about his fondness for old world delicacies such as pickled pigs' feet or limburger cheese, but he was a true omnivore, and ate anything put in front of him with great enjoyment and gratitude. A child of the Depression, he learned early on to treasure the small pleasures in life and the people around him. It seems I not only inherited his blue eyes and high forehead, but his love of travel. I am and will always be a Coast Guardsman’s daughter.  
The Coast Guardsman and his other daughter, in the only boat we ever owned

Below is the obituary I wrote for him; it only scratches the surface:

Bradtke, Donald F., 91, of DeLand, Florida, died Sunday, January 12th, 2014.  Born in Great Falls, Montana, he was orphaned as a young child and adopted by his aunt and uncle, the Ebenroths of Chicago.  He studied business at Marquette University, where he also played varsity sports.  During World War II, he served in the United States Coast Guard on The USS Mosley, a destroyer escort.  He married Louise M.  DeCaprio in Boston in 1948, and together they raised four children while he continued his career with the Coast Guard.  He served as a personnel officer, including a tour of duty at the Coast Guard Academy, assigning graduates their first commissions.  The family traveled widely, including Guam, Juneau, New York, and Miami, but Florida was always his favorite location.  After twenty-seven years of service, he retired in Miami with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer (W-3).  He enjoyed a second career as an office manager for educational services.  In his leisure time he was an avid bowler and scout leader; he also coached and umpired youth softball and baseball, and was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.  The Bradtkes moved from Miami to DeLand in 1978, where in 1979 they established an educational business, Bradtke Educational Systems Inc., to help children and adults with special needs.  In addition, he managed the Amber Inn restaurant at the Putnam Hotel.  After retiring from his second career, he undertook various volunteer activities, joined the Kiwanis, and was involved in mediation, arbitration, and counseling.  He served on the Board of Directors of the Volusia County Mediation Services, the Deland Area Chamber of Commerce, the Public Safety Committee, Community Outreach Services, the Stewart-Marchman Center, and the Delinquency Advisory Board of the Juvenile Detention Center.  Following the death of his wife Louise in 2011, he spent the last few years living quietly at home with his youngest son.  Two sisters, his four children, and three grandchildren survive him.

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