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Published: Wednesday, 7/25/2012

N. Keith Bradley, 1933-2012: Auctioneer announced for tractor pulls

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN -- N. Keith Bradley, an auctioneer, announcer, and real estate broker whose supple voice brought crowds to their feet and inspired bidders at farms, country clubs, and county fairs, died Friday in Wood County Hospital of complications from a heart attack and pneumonia. He was 79.

He was in poor health for much of the last year, said Peggy Brigham, a friend, colleague, and his primary caregiver.

Mr. Bradley of Wood County's Plain Township owned Bradley Real Estate & Auction Inc. in Bowling Green since the 1970s, but he was well known from an array of activities.

He was an announcer at the Wood County Fair since 1958 and presided at livestock and other auctions there. For 19 years, fair-goers voted him the county's favorite auctioneer. He was the top auctioneer in 1982 at the Ohio State Fair.

He was the announcer of the annual National Tractor Pulling Championships in Bowling Green since the first event in 1967. His cry, "Full pull!" was often imitated but never duplicated, said Terry Andryc, media coordinator for the championships.

"That was one of the things that fans looked forward to," Mr. Andryc said. "He was a tractor-pull fan and a member, and those words came from the heart."

He had a stroke during the 2011 event. This year's championship is Aug. 17-19, and a remembrance is planned.

"It will be good, and it will bring some tears, I'm sure," said Michael Ott, president of the tractor-pull group.

Mr. Bradley also announced horse shows throughout the United States for more than 50 years and traveled in the 1990s for the All-Australia Quarter Horse Congress.

He was in the halls of fame of the Reining Horse Association and the All American Quarter Horse Congress and was a past president of the Northwest Ohio Harness Horse Association.

Day to day, he generally didn't preside over the sales of pies or hogs. But he ran auctions of all sorts -- business liquidations, farm estates, real estate, machinery.

He was distinguished by his tall Western hat and fine Western boots. And then he spoke, each word perfect.

At a 1984 auction of a defunct lumber company's assets, he "worked the crowd with the skills of a band leader, his staccato voice urging the bids higher and higher before descending with a final note on the willing buyer," The Blade reported at the time.

"He never called it work, because he enjoyed what he did," Ms. Brigham said. "People knew they could rely on him and trust him because of his professionalism and his integrity." He also was in demand for charity fund-raisers and auctions.

He was in the halls of fame of the Ohio Auctioneers Association and the Wood County Board of Realtors. He was a past president of both groups.

Born and raised on the Portage Township farm of Ortha and Wayne Bradley, Mr. Bradley was a 1951 graduate of Bowling Green High School who later studied music at Bowling Green State University and played tuba with an Army band while stationed in Hawaii.

Afterward, he sold petroleum products and auto parts until a friend urged him to try announcing "because his voice had such clarity and depth," Ms. Brigham said.

"He loved that he had so many professions that he wasn't stuck in the same position 12 months out of the year," she said. "He would schedule auctions around announcing jobs. He was very lucky. He accomplished everything in life he set out to do."

Mr. Bradley was a Mason, a past president of the Wood County Shrine Club, and a member of Plain Congregational Church.

His wife, Donna "Butch" Bradley, died Aug. 25, 1995.

Surviving are his brother, Garold Bradley, and a grandson. A son, Michael, preceded him in death.

Services are to begin at 11 a.m. today in the Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home, Bowling Green. The family suggests tributes to the Make-A-Wish Foundation or a charity of the donor's choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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