On June 20, 2022, William Bradfield died in the arms of his family at 7:15 in the morning. He always did things his way. He wanted to die at home and that’s what he did.
Among so many other accomplishments Bill was a husband, a father, a friend and a Papa. He was a retired US Forest Service wild land fire fighter and a retired chief of the Meadow Valley Volunteer Fire Department.
Born in L.A, raised in Southgate, California, the middle child of Everette and Dixie Bradfield. His parents owned a vacation mountain cabin in Twin Peaks, CA and Bill was happiest when he was in the woods. He wanted to work for the Forest Service.
After graduating from Lynwood High, he took off with 3 friends for Alaska. They drove in a VW bus with no side windows, up the coast of the Western US, eventually arriving at Great Slave Lake in the Yukon Territories. They came back into the US at Wyoming, sleeping on the ground in Yellowstone. Then to Colorado to visit someone’s Gramma and then to Arizona, spending a week on the Colorado River.
A year later he hired himself onto the Queen Mary and sailed to England. He worked in a Teddy Bear factory. He saw Europe, just the way he wanted to.
In 1969 he married Debi. Together they had 2 wonderful children: Eric and Danielle. He still wanted to work for the Forest Service. Bill and Debi hand wrote letters to every Forest in California inquiring about employment. The San Bernardino National Forest offered him a job as a tank truck operator on an engine. So Bill went to work for the Forest Service just like he wanted. Their first child, Eric, was born.
After some years Bill wanted to be a foreman on an orchard. He quit the Forest Service, packed up his family and moved to a friend’s orchard in Chelan, Washington. Their second child, Danielle, was born. He missed the Forest Service. He quit the orchard job. The family moved into Northern California. Bill started work with the Plumas National Forest on Engine 682 stationed out of the Meadow Valley Fire Department when it was a small, cinder-block building.
They lived in Cromberg and then in Meadow Valley in one of the “Bankers Cabins” above Spanish Creek. The owners allowed the family to live there in exchange for caretaking the property. So gracious! The water to the cabin was gravity fed and spanned above Spanish Creek in a steel pipe suspended on a large cable. Bill spent winters keeping that pipe from freezing and keeping the family supplied with fire wood to burn 24/7. At that time he split their wood by hand. The kids thrived in the woods.
Bill’s next USFS assignment was at the heliport on the helicopter. He eventually became a “spotter”, rappelling out of the helicopter. He liked that.
All this time he was a volunteer fireman with the Meadow Valley Volunteer Fire Department. He loved being a volunteer. Sometimes he would come home from fighting wild land fires at work and then respond to a house fire in Meadow Valley. He understood the value of volunteering. He became a first responder. You would see him at every spaghetti dinner and pancake breakfast helping raise money for the fire department and the Meadow Valley school house. When Ian retired as chief, Bill became the chief of the Department.
He volunteered on Ski Patrol at Tahoe Donner as well.
After retirement, he worked at Lake Shore Resort Marina at Bucks Lake for several summer seasons.
One of his favorite activities was drinking coffee. You rarely saw him without a cup in hand. He loved having coffee and conversation with his dear friend, Donna. He didn’t always agree with her but he valued her and loved her coffee.
When it came to leisure Bill enjoyed taking Debi to the middle of nowhere with their camp trailer. He always took wood for a camp fire. He enjoyed all books by Lois L’Amour. He never missed the weather on TV. His favorite show was Gun Smoke as well as NASCAR. Bill got a recreational pilot’s license when he was 62.
The joy and absolute love of his life was his 7 year old grandson, Jase. Bill was forever grateful that he was blessed to become Jase’s “Papa” at age 70. Bill taught Jase life skills: How to ride a bike with and without training wheels, how to stack wood, use a screw driver and a hammer, read a map, read a book, eat ice cream on the porch, pan for gold in Spanish Creek, eat Hersey’s kisses, watch the 12 o-clock news and Gold Rush…
Bill liked hard work and never shirked it. His hands were rough and stained with oil and dirt from the good earth. They were beautiful. At home there was usually the constant sound of Bill and anything with a gas engine: chain saw, wood splitter, lawn mower, snow blower, snow plow… he kept huge reserves of firewood and burned enormous piles of pine needles. He was a natural born Mr Fix-it.
For their 50th wedding anniversary Bill took Debi to Hoover Dam. They took a home-baked cake, he bought flowers for her at Walmart in Fallon, NV. They spent 2 nights in Boulder City, toured the dam, ate delicious bbq in a restaurant that Bill located in an alley. On “their day,” they took their cake and Bill’s thermos of coffee and found a beautiful area to eat cake, drink coffee and visit. Just like Bill wanted.
During the last months of Bill’s life he was blessed with amazing clarity of mind right up until he died. During that time he spoke of things that mattered to him. He showed incredible strength of character during such a difficult time. He was tender in his love and gratitude towards his family for who they were and the care they gave him. He was grateful to God for his community of friends who brought food, assistance to and from hospitals locally and far away, offered prayers and words of encouragement in person, on the phone and via text and cards.
This amazing man brought his wife and his children into the great and marvelous outdoors and showed them how to love it like he did. Thank you, Bill.
Bill leaves behind his wife of 53 years, Debi; his son Eric; his daughter, Danielle and his beloved grandson, Jase; his step-grandsons, Joaquin and Nathaniel; his cat, Charlie Hall. Also his older brother Bob and his wife; his younger sister, Terry and her husband; his niece Viv and her husband; nephew, Chris; niece Cindy; and many others on Debi’s side of the family.
Bill is a Christian and attended the Church of Christ in Quincy. He knew that dying was not the end but the beginning of a new life with Jesus in a new body that won’t get sick and die and there are no “good-byes.“
A memorial celebration of the life of Willy Bill Bradfield will take place on Saturday, August 13, 2022, at the Meadow Valley Volunteer Fire Department on Bucks Lake Rd at 2 PM. There will be an open cookie bar because Bill wanted it.