PINCKNEY — Tedd Bradley says his biggest project was the football stadium at Pinckney High School, which opened in 2011 to rave reviews.
But if you ask enough people what Bradley’s legacy will be, football isn’t remotely in the conversation.
“When I was going through chemo, he knew I could hardly eat anything,” said Tricia McEuen, a former athletic department secretary who battled breast cancer near the end of her tenure at Pinckney. “Nothing would stay down, but he would always bring me a Frosty from Wendy’s. A great guy.”
“I think one of the things you should know about Tedd is that he’s a great guy,” cross country coach Tom Carney said. “Even when he’s disappointed, he’s not frowning. He’s got a smile on his face. He’s always got your back, and that’s the best thing about him.”
Bradley, who retired at the end of the year after 29 years with the Pinckney school district, was the honoree at a surprise party given for him Saturday at Peoples Evangelical Free Church in Pinckney.
“I was supposed to see a little girl’s variety show here at the church,” he said. “I was asked to join Sherry Richardson’s show and be a pseudo-grandparent, which wasn’t unreasonable, so I thought we’d come over and be the star.”
The surprise, he said, was total.
“I never knew what my wife (Karen) was up to,” he said, chuckling. “I kept hearing little things, but never knew what was going on.”
As it turns out, it was a rare occasion where he was kept in the dark, to the delight of those in attendance.
“I’ve known Ted since he started here,” former Pinckney Community Schools principal Barbara Reams said. “He was always an asset to our community. He was the kind of guy whom every job he worked he did it well. He looked like he was about 15 years old when he came here, and we took him under our wings, so to speak.
“But he could stand on his own,” she continued. “He was great. He moved through different positions. He built our community ed program into something quite wonderful. He deserves quite a bit of credit. He’ll be missed, greatly.”
Football coach Jakob Gailitis was one of several Pinckney coaches in attendance.
“For me, personally, he took a chance on a 28-year-old football coach with just freshman experience coaching, just one year on varsity,” he said. “Not too many schools would do that, especially at Class A. It was a bit of a risk, so I owe a lot to Ted. He was there to support me and take me all the way through.
“He always wanted what was best for us and he wanted to go about how can we support and help you,” Gailitis said. “You could go to him and say I need XYZ, and if he couldn’t do that, he was there to say, ‘How can we help get that? How do we make it work? How can we get it done?'”
Bradley was succeeded by Brian Wardlow, once of hundreds who benefitted from Pinckney Community Education programs over the last three decades.
“I was 18 when I first started working for Tedd, in the summer latchkey program,” Wardlow said. “Two or three summers later, the coordinator stepped down and he asked me to take over, and that’s where I started with leadership.”
Wardlow taught third-graders at Farley Hill Elementary School before taking over both the Community Ed and Pinckney High School athletic programs this month.
“He’s a great role model,” Wardlow said. “You see people who say they care, and you have people who say they care and really show they care. He always puts people in the community first. He’ll do anything for anyone. All of the children are his children. I felt that way when I was playing basketball and the second and third grade. He was there running it, and I just ran it this morning. He’s got big shoes to fill and I’m doing the best I can.”
“He has the experience, he has that drive and he is goal-setting,” Bradley said. “I told him to do something different. Don’t do what I did. Find something else you can give to this community that this community can do differently. My push for him is make it different. Spend some more time with the younger men and women and kids in this community. Find out what their needs and wants are, so we when we build a feeder system into the high school, it can be a good feeder system that everyone is working together on.”
Bradley’s attention to detail, however, will be enshrined in the football stadium built after voters passed a bond in 2010.
In preparation, he picked the brains of athletic directors at every road game, learning what worked and what didn’t.
“I wanted to listen to what everyone wanted, and what the needs were,” he said, “so that if we built something, in 20, 30, or 50 years, we can come back and say we built this right for the community, it’s still functional, to the point where it did what it was supposed to do.”
Bradley helped set up the transition for Wardlow, and to this point is happily retired.
“Retirement is great,” he said. “It gives you an idea there are other things out there to. That’s what I decided to do. I’m one of those people who does things full-bore. That’s how I’ve always worked. I just had to shut it off. Give them enough time to shut it off gives us time to train other people and get it organized so this community can be successful. But I also look at it as a new chapter for the community.”
Before Saturday’s event, Bradley said he had been getting a steady stream of thanks.
“I’m out and about, and I keep running into people who say, ‘Hey, Tedd, happy for your retirement. Thank you for the work you’ve done,'” he said, smiling. “You don’t realize when you work all the time what other people think of you. You don’t have the time. You’re working four nights a week, you’re going full-tilt, but just to realize that people knew I was retired. How did they find out? Who told them?”
His calendar, once filled with events and meetings from morning through night, is free, save for a stint running the cross country competition for the Special Olympics near Traverse City at the end of the month.
After that, Bradley and his wife plan to relax, spend some time on his boat, “and then decide if we want to go back to work,” he said. “Maybe it’s volunteering or some projects through mission work. All of those are on the books.”
Gailitis suspects he’ll be in a familiar spot most evenings, at least for a while.
“He will probably still be there (at Pinckney athletic events), let’s be honest,” Gailitis said. “He’s that kind of person. It’s kind of a loss, but we know he’ll be around. He’s the perfect person for that kind of role. He cares, he’s always there to support you. We’ll miss him, but we know he’ll be around.”
Saturday was a chance for those who worked with him and for him over the years to say thanks.
Former Brighton athletic secretary Connie Zaske and former Milford athletic director Chris Ceresa made the drive, and McEuen, who lives in Castle Rock, Colo., was thrilled to find out the party was the same weekend as her grandson’s christening.
“I love being here and I’m so glad I got to come, and hug everyone and see everyone and help celebrate Tedd,” she said. “He has been doing the Community Ed job and the athletic director job at the same time, balancing so many balls and juggling so many balls, serving the kids and serving the coaches next.”
“It really has been a privilege to work with Tedd,” Ceresa said. “He’s a great guy, a great personality for all of us. He’s made me a better person. It’s a sad day to see him leave athletics, and see him leave Pinckney, but he’s mentored a lot of people in a positive way.”
Reams, who took Bradley under her wing decades ago, roamed the party taking pictures.
“He’ll be forever young to me,” she said, smiling. “The mother of sons, I always took a special liking to him. He’s a great guy.”
“I just want to thank the Pinckney community for allowing me to be the director of Community Ed and the athletic director,” Bradley said. “I think I’ve always tried to work as a partner with all groups and have the respect of all employee groups we have at Pinckney schools. It’s a special place to be. Times are tough, in some ways, but it’s a special place to be part of.”