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Epilogue | Bradley Whaley

For three years, a free spirit was silenced

Pregnant with twins, Sue Whaley would hop on the back of her husband's motorcycle, lean her head against his back and fall asleep during the ride.

Her twin sons were conceived a month apart, a medical anomaly. Adam was quiet and studious. Bradley was a free spirit.

Bradley and his father, Tom, worked on the car or motorcycle together. When Bradley was 17, he got a Honda Shadow 750.

Adam enjoyed riding on the back of Bradley's bike because "he was a little wild," he said.

• • •

Bradley would have made a great kindergarten teacher. Or a comedian.

He could make anyone laugh with a mocking voice, crude joke or perfect British accent.

He could not resist playing with children. He accompanied his mother whenever she volunteered at the church nursery. He played with the children for hours.

Old people loved him, too. Couples approached his parents whenever they dined at the restaurant where he worked. The regulars loved how polite and charming Bradley was.

"We'd go, 'Are you sure you're talking about our son?' " Sue said, laughing.

• • •

In high school, Bradley began smoking pot and drinking alcohol. He took some classes at St. Petersburg College, but preferred partying to studying.

His parents implored him to get help, but he refused.

One day in 2005, he got into an argument with the girl he was dating and punched through a window.

Police followed the trail of blood and found him at the bar where she worked. Doctors stitched him up and sent him home.

The next night, he overdosed on painkillers, alcohol and marijuana.

His brain was severely damaged, and he never spoke again. If his mother pulled his chin, he could mouth "Mama." If she leaned close, he could kiss her.

That "broke my heart," Sue, 53, said.

• • •

For nearly three years, his mother and father did nothing but "work, sleep and spend time with Bradley," she said.

There was a chance his condition would improve. But it didn't. Infections kept landing him in a hospital. Finally, his family transferred him to the Hospice of Florida Suncoast, where Terri Schiavo died.

They removed his feeding tube, and his mother lay in bed beside him. He died July 2.

After his accident, Sue stopped attending church. Now, her anger has faded. This weekend, she will be there with Bradley once more.


Bradley Whaley

Born: Dec. 11, 1982

Died: July 2, 2008

Survivors: Parents

Tom and Sue Whaley; brothers Adam and James; sisters-in-law Angelica and Heather; nephew Torin; niece Madelyn; grandmother Grace Longhouser, Asheville, N.C.

Service: 3 p.m. Saturday at Glad Tidings Assembly of God, 4200 17th Ave. N, St. Petersburg.

For three years, a free spirit was silenced 07/08/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 8:41pm]
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