As medical director of the tri-county Planned Parenthood, Dr. Charles Bradley believed that women should always have the opportunity to be their own health advocates. | Credit: Courtesy

Charles ‘Fritz’ Bradley III: 1930-2020

Fritz was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the second of Charles and Mina’s four smart, adventurous children. They were a musical family, too, one that loved to sing around the piano, in their cars, and in their church choir. Fritz’s strong voice was a fixture in the Goleta Presbyterian Church choir and later at First Presbyterian Church. He played the piano, the trumpet, and “a pretty poor violin.” But he loved having his music nearby, and his books, particularly mysteries. He used to say that anything worth learning you could find in a book. He loved running; he loved the ocean and Shakespeare and the Lakers … the Jerry West years.

Fritz attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, before leaving early to enter the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He went on to serve as a flight surgeon in the navy, stationed at Naval Air Station Miramar, San Diego. He was so proud of that time and grateful for the experiences, opportunities, and lifelong friendships he found there. His medical residency was served in Buffalo, New York, but the sunshine called, so he and his wife, Donna, packed the kids in the station wagon and made the journey back west, starting their new life in Solvang and establishing what would develop into a strong, well-respected private practice in obstetrics, gynecology, and infertility. 

The importance of each patient motivated Fritz throughout his career. When it became apparent that speaking Spanish would help him serve many of his patients more effectively, he bought Spanish tapes and learned while driving to the office and the hospital. When he was on call, the home phone rang nonstop. Not even the dinner table was safe. And when yardwork called, Fritz slung an oven mitt on a beltloop at his hip to carry the “portable” phone just in case he was needed. By family estimates, he delivered close to 5,000 babies in the county.

The Bradley family moved to Santa Barbara six years later, where Dr. B strengthened his practice, served as chief of staff of Goleta Valley Community Hospital, volunteered in the UCSB Women’s Clinic, and found himself as part of the medical team of Santa Barbara County Planned Parenthood. Those were not always easy times. 

Dr. Charles Arthur Bradley joined the staff not long after the Roe v. Wade decision, and it was very clear that this battle was one that would follow him throughout his career. He faced protesters at the clinic, at church, and at home. There were rocks thrown through the kitchen window and a stranger on the roof late at night. One weekday morning, a man chained himself to the underside of the car, trying to keep Dr. Bradley from going to work. The police were called, the man arrested, and Dr. Bradley went on to work because he had patients waiting.

He had become a fierce but quiet advocate for women’s right to quality, affordable health care. He believed that women should always have the opportunity to be their own health advocates, and when he retired as medical director of the tri-county Planned Parenthood, he knew he was handing his responsibilities to a new generation of professionals that were even better equipped to further that challenge. In relating an experience at Planned Parenthood, one reader of this paper referred to Dr. Bradley as “master of kindness Dr. Bradley.”

Family was everything to Fritz. He traveled valiantly with four kids on camping trips and cross-country vacations to Maine. He had the whole family up on Tunnel Trail one year, backpacks full of books, training for the Grand Canyon. He danced down Main Street in Disneyland, maybe a few more times than he’d have liked. He was so grateful that his children Art (Brenda), Ellen (Richard), Karen (Rob), and Ruth (Zegory) found their own strong, thoughtful, loving people. He loved hearing about the accomplishments and adventures of his grandkids, Brad, James, Matt, Rebecca, Bailey, and Chris. He was so proud. A few months ago, he met his first great-grandson. “Golden Holden” he called him, and he was in love.

Fritz was able to pass peacefully in his own home, through the loving strength of his wife, Annie. They shared 31 years of marriage, wonderful trips to Denmark, and countless dinner parties featuring Annie’s amazing cooking. He learned to speak Danish, to the amazement and cheers of all. He knew he was cherished by friends and family, including Annie’s daughter, Linda, and grandson, EJ.

In lieu of your thoughtful cards and flowers, call a loved one, listen, send a note, express gratitude, pass it on. And when the time is right, share a hug, share a toast to a kind man.

We miss you, Dad, more than words can say.

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