Jack Bradley, of Margate, was grand marshal of Atlantic City's St. Patrick's Day parade in 2003. Bradley was proud of his Irish roots and his big family.

Photo provided by Bradley family

Jack Bradley’s family knew what was important to him.

So, after he died last month at 85, his kids started describing him in his obituary with four words: “proud Irishman, loving father.”

Bradley, who lived almost 50 years in Margate, had eight children — John, Shelagh, Betsey, Brendan, Kevin, Chris, Anne and Bill — now 42 to 60 years old. (His wife and their mom, Jane, died in 1982.)

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Jack told his children that he grew up an only child, moving around the country with his parents — and swearing he’d never force another kid into that loneliness. And he died proud of his big, close family, said his son Chris, also of Margate.

But even if Jack never lived in Ireland — both his parents were born in America, too — his family and friends all know his Irish roots mattered to him.

“He was the definition of an Irishman through and through,” said Frank Finnerty, of Egg Harbor Township, Jack’s old friend from the local Friendly Sons of St. Patrick chapter.

Jack loved traveling in Ireland with his family, but one of his happiest moments of Irishness came in 2003, when he was grand marshal of Atlantic City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. Finnerty said Jack was a popular pick for that honor.

“You always had a smile after you were hanging with Jack,” Finnerty said. “He had good stories, and he had that little Irish way of making the stories enjoyable.”

Jack knew his way around a bar, only partly because he owned a few of them in his life. That was before he and Jane moved their still-growing family from Northeast Philadelphia to Margate around 1964, Chris Bradley said.

Jack became banquet manager at Atlantic City’s Haddon Hall, and was still at that Boardwalk landmark in 1978, when it became Resorts International, the city’s first casino. Resorts made Jack its showroom manager, a job that let him meet Don Rickles and more big stars. Rickles insulted him, of course. And Jack loved it, of course.

Chris Brown, of Ventnor, is a lawyer and state assemblyman now. But when he met “Mr. Bradley,” Brown was just another teenager visiting the Bradley house. Brown said that was a popular spot, mainly because of all those Bradley kids. But another draw was their dad, whose own entertainment act ran from jokes and stories to belting out his signature song, “On the Way to Cape May.”

Jack was a very good singer — even his kids have to agree. So after his funeral at Margate’s Blessed Sacrament Church, another key spot in his life, his 15 grandchildren passed out copies of the lyrics to his favorite song around Jack’s grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Mays Landing.

And 130 or so voices sang “On the Way to Cape May” to honor Jack Bradley, a proud Irishman and a loving father.

A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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