A taxidermied blue heron stands tall in the entrance to 99-year-old Irene Bradley’s Puyallup home.
For Irene and her 66-year-old son, Dave Bradley, the bird is a constant reminder of the property they owned on South Hill for more than four decades.
“The bird is very much a reminder of Bradley Lake Park,” Dave said.
Irene and her husband, Ward, moved from Seattle to Puyallup in 1950. In 1956, they moved to what is now the 59 acres of Bradley Lake Park on South Hill. They’ve been living in the Puyallup area ever since.
Now, as Irene’s 100th birthday approaches, she plans to celebrate it at the park she helped create. For Irene, her old property brings back decades’ worth of memories.
Irene Bradley was born May 3, 1917.
“It was big,” Irene said about her old property. “It was wonderful.”
After moving to South Hill in 1956 with Ward, Irene had two sons, David and Stephen. At the time, Bradley Lake was a peat bog, or wetland. As a family, the Bradleys made a living selling the topsoil from their property.
“We started using a tractor to dig it out to the point where there was so much water,” David said.
“Both Stephen and David worked really hard,” added Irene. “It was a family affair.”
Over time, the lake began to form, and Irene saw potential for the property to become a park. With support from her family and the community, she became active in its promotion, Dave said.
“It was a wonderful place for our children to grow up, and we envisioned it for other people’s children,” Irene said.
It was a wonderful place for our children to grow up, and we envisioned it for other people’s children.
The lake was named after Ward, who passed away in 2010. In 1997, the city of Puyallup took over ownership of the property and 12-acre lake. It was bittersweet for Irene, who created many memories there.
Now, Irene remembers watching snow geese and blue herons landing on Bradley Lake. She remembers the sunrises and sunsets, fields of yellow daffodils, and eating raspberries and strawberries from the Puyallup Valley.
In 1952, Irene began selling tickets for what was then the Puyallup Fair and continued to do so for 31 years. She was also active in volunteering at the local hospital for 50 years.
Irene witnessed the years of growth in South Hill and Puyallup, including the expansion of the school district, Meridian Avenue’s transformation from two lanes and the creation of Good Samaritan Hospital. She saw Puyallup’s population grow from 10,000 to 40,000 people.
Irene said she never thought she’d live to be 100, but David said he’s grateful.
“For her age, she’s still doing great. It’s hard watching her slow down … but I’m blessed,” he said.
David is throwing a celebration for Irene’s 100th birthday on May 6 at Bradley Lake Park. Friends, family and community members will attend, including Puyallup Mayor John Hopkins, who will read a proclamation.
We’re recognizing her as an upstanding citizen whose family has made such a big contribution to the city and recognizing that she’s turning 100 years old. …That comes with a bit of history.
John Hopkins, mayor of Puyallup
“We’re recognizing her as an upstanding citizen whose family has made such a big contribution to the city and recognizing that she’s turning 100 years old,” Hopkins said. “That comes with a bit of history.”
Irene and David occasionally visit Bradley Lake Park, and when they do, years of memories surface — some of them painful, said Dave, who remembers the locations on the property where the family dogs were buried.
“I love to see people up there enjoying the place from all walks (of life) and all ages, but it’s difficult,” Dave said. “We put so much life into it.”
“The fact that a lot of people can go there and it’s used is very rewarding,” said Irene.