Irene Bradley, a longtime resident of Kingsport, died on February 11, 2021 at the age of 95 of complications of dementia.
She was born Lois Irene Jones in Clinchport, Virginia, on September 26, 1925, the ninth of ten children. Two years later the Jones family moved to Kingsport, where they lived in the Borden Mill Village. Irene loved downtown Kingsport: the movies, the stores, and the library.
Her family moved in the late 1930’s to what is now Colonial Heights, where she met the love of her life, George Bradley, Jr. They attended Holston High School—George drove the school bus on which Irene rode—and both were cheerleaders. Following graduation amid World War II, George joined the Navy while Irene worked in the payroll office at Holston Ordnance, where she typed a letter every day and mailed it to the South Pacific. Her sailor sent her a hula dress from Hawaii.
When George returned their romance rekindled, and they decided to get married. Impatient with Tennessee’s three-day waiting period, they ran off to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and began a marriage that lasted 70 years.
Irene served in Tenite Sales at Eastman while George worked as an electrician for Bays Mountain Construction Company at Eastman. They moved into a house across the highway from the Bradley farm, where they had four children: Jeff, Brooke, Carol, and Jo.
George and his two brothers launched Bradley Brothers Construction Company in the 1950s. In the early days of the enterprise, Irene answered the company phone at home and manned the two-way radio while raising young children. George would sometimes play a joke by phoning Irene using a weird voice and making some absurd request. One day the phone rang with a corny-sounding caller asking to speak to George. Irene, certain that she was being pranked, responded with a mock tirade saying things like “I don’t know where that bum is!” and much more. The response was a long silence. To her utter shock and embarrassment, she realized that the caller was a real customer.
Irene was devoted to her children, driving them in the summers to swimming lessons at Warriors Path State Park and year-round to the Kingsport Public Library. She filled their home with magazines such as Time, Life, Look, Ladies Home Journal and McCall’s, giving her kids a look at the wider world and a lifetime love of reading. She supported her offspring in whatever extracurricular activities they chose, from Vacation Bible School to piano lessons and cheerleading.
She served as a Girl Scout leader for her three daughters, shepherding each of them through the ranks for over ten years apiece. She and other leaders took their troops on multiple occasions to Myrtle Beach, where they rented a house and had good times. Irene loved the beach and enjoyed a weeklong vacation every year for decades at Daytona or Myrtle Beaches, most often with the W.O. and Helen Martin family.
Irene was an intensive gardener, growing healthy vegetables for her family and others. A good cook, she must have baked cornbread more than 10,000 times. She delighted in hosting large
Jones and Bradley family gatherings at Christmas and other occasions and served as the connection point for her extended family.
She was an accomplished seamstress, producing clothing and quilts that her children and grandchildren cherish. Irene attended quilt shows across the Southeast and could name almost any quilt pattern displayed on the many quilt barns in East Tennessee.
She was a member of Mountain View Methodist Church and, later, Colonial Heights United Methodist Church. Here she had close friendships with members of her Sunday School class and her circle in the Women’s Society of Christian Service. For years she worked at Brookside Mini Storage.
When her children moved away, Irene loved to visit them. She and George once undertook a 28-day camping trip, every night in a tent, from Tennessee to Colorado, up to Montana, and back home. She loved New York City, with Broadway shows and city sidewalks. She would take a bus by herself from a Boston suburb to the city and come back with tales of what she had seen. She was a season ticket holder for the UT Lady Vols for years, and a huge fan of Coach Pat Summitt.
Irene was the last of her Jones siblings. George died in 2017. She spent her last three and a half years in a memory care unit in Knoxville near her daughter, Jo.
She is survived by her son, Jeff Bradley (Marta Turnbull) of Louisville, Colorado; daughters Brooke Bradley of Shelter Island Heights, New York; Carol Bradley (Steve L'Heureux) of Great Falls, Montana; and Jo Caruso (Sonny Gregory) of Knoxville, Tennessee; three grandsons, Truman Bradley of Golden, Colorado; Walker Kosmidou-Bradley (Gina Kosmidou Bradley) of Dakar, Senegal; and John Post of Eugene, Oregon; and several nieces and nephews.
A funeral service will be held at Hamlett Dobson Funeral Home at 117 E. Charlemont Avenue in Kingsport at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, February 20. There will be no visitation, and guests are asked to wear COVID masks and to follow social distancing at the service. Funeral services will be live streamed and can be viewed at www.hamlettdobson.com
Burial will follow at East Lawn Memorial Park at 4997 Memorial Boulevard.
The family would like to thank Caregiver Veronica Pierson in Kingsport and the loving staff of The Pointe at Lifespring in Knoxville.
Irene was generous with her family and others. She and George supported their church, various Rotary Club projects, Habitat for Humanity, and other charities. Contributions in Irene’s memory may be made to the Pat Summitt Foundation seeking a cure for Alzheimer’s. Please give at https://www.patsummitt.org or by mail to 520 W. Summit Hill Drive, Suite 1101, Knoxville, TN 37902.
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