My father, William James Brady, Sr. passed away 51 years ago this month. Since he has been especially on my mind these last few weeks, I thought I would share some stories about him.
Dad was very proud of his service in the U. S. Navy during World War I. Since he was not old enough to enlist, he used his brother’s baptismal certificate and enlisted at age 15 soon after the United States entered the war. He had a thought that by joining the Navy he might see something of the world. But that dream was not to be. He trained at the Great Lakes Naval Station, just north of Chicago, where he was proud to say he marched behind the Navy Band led by John Philip Sousa. He spent the remainder of his enlistment on the U. S. S. Gloucester, stationed at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. The Gloucester was the former yacht of J. P. Morgan, which had been donated to the Navy during the Spanish-American War of 1898. From 1917 to 1919, the Gloucester conducted harbor patrols in the New York City area. According to Dad, he may have been the youngest enlistee from Illinois during World War I. I remember his name was one of those listed on a WWI service plaque which at one time was displayed on one of the main streets in Downers Grove, Illinois.
One of Dad’s passions was the Chicago White Sox. Though he was born on Chicago’s West Side, both of his parents had their roots on the South Side. Dad told the story about trying out for the White Sox in 1920, as a catcher. He claimed that he had been offered a contract, but turned it down for two reasons: his best friend, a pitcher, had not been offered a contract, and it was the year after the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, when various members of the team supposedly threw the World Series.
Dad was a very good bowler. At one time during the 1950s, he was a member of three leagues. The league he was in the longest was the Moose Lodge #3 League, which bowled on Tuesday evenings at the old Lawrence-Western Lanes in Chicago. I would sometimes go with him just to watch the bowlers and enjoy the York Peppermint Patty that Dad would always get for me from the vending machine. His team served as pallbearers at his funeral.
Fishing was the other sport which interested Dad. As he worked in highway construction, there were not many opportunities to head to the family cabin on Malby Lake, near Minocqua, Wisconsin. But when he could, he would take the rowboat out to his favorite lily pads, put a worm on his hook and just spend a peaceful day on the lake. He would spend several hours fishing and usually came back with enough perch, bluegills and crappies for our supper. I think he may have been at his happiest on those trips as he always had a smile on his face and a chuckle on his lips.
Dad, Mom and me at Malby Lake.
Dad was not polished or urbane, just an Irishman who loved life and the people around him. I still miss him every day.