Dad had a lifelong band of brothers in "The Bradley Boys." They grew up together, and coming full circle, they arrived, en masse, to visit Dad a few hours before he passed away. Guitar in hand, Dad's longtime hero, EJ, sang long-forgotten folk songs while the rest sat around Dad's bed and tapped their feet to the music. I closed the door of Dad's bedroom to give them privacy, but would've loved to have been a fly on the wall for the stories and moments they shared. The power of their bond was palpable, and they shared an entire lifetime that I know very little about.
One of the Bradley Boys, Dr. Jerry Nye, writes a column called "Matchbook Memories" for the Lindsay News. On Dad's birthday, he sent me what he wrote about him the week after his services in Bradley. His reflections are invaluable and are a glimpse into Dad's life that is little known to the rest of the world.
Thank you, Bradley Boys, for all that you are and all that you have done.
O. GAIL POOLE: ARTIST, FRIEND, OLD BRADLEY BOY
Lindsay News "Matchbook Memories" by Dr. Jerry Nye
A Celebration of Life for Gail Poole was held in the Bradley Cemetery last Saturday. Family, friends, and Old Bradley Boys gathered under the large Post Oak tree in the Bradley Cemetery to remember the life and legacy of a talented artist and a memorable friend.
Nicole Poole, Gail’s daughter, began the ceremony by introducing her family and Gail’s artist friends. Her words showed her love and admiration for her father. She spoke heart-felt words of thanks to the Bradley people for their support for her and her family in their sorrow.
As I listened to Nicole’s words, I looked at the crowd gathered at the tree. Nicole was attractive, eloquent, and impressive. Her mother stood nearby. Doris was Gail’s ex-wife and great friend, who stayed by his side to help care for him in his last days. Michael, Nicole’s gentleman friend and staunch supporter, stood close by. The Old Bradley Boys were present in force. I could see E.J. Branch, Bill Branch, Bryan Branch, L.B. Hoyle, Alvin Beene, Bill Sinclair, K.O. Selzer, and Jay Mann. The Bradley girls were there too—Ina Hoyle, Joan Branch, Trula Selzer, and Merlene Coon. Joann and Alvin were in Gail’s Bradley High School graduating class of 1953. All of us pondered our memories of Gail as the ceremony moved on.
As I spoke my words for Gail, I watched the faces of our friends from long ago. I was touched by the expressions of love, sadness, happiness, and nostalgic memories that showed on their faces. After giving a brief history of the Patterson family, I reminisced about our memories of Gail from our school days at Bradley.
I began by talking about Gail’s intelligence. As the son of a Bradley teacher, Gail was required to study. His mother, Hazel Patterson Poole Doyle, taught elementary grades at Bradley from 1948 to 1953. From his earliest memory, Gail knew he was going to college, unlike most of the rest of us who had no plans for college.
When Gail moved to Bradley in the summer of 1948, he had just completed the sixth grade. I had just completed the ninth grade, but we became friends at once. I discovered at once that Gail was good in art. He drew pictures constantly and effortlessly. His room was filled with crayon and pencil drawings. I learned that his biological father was an artist. Even though his father was not present in Gail’s boyhood years, I have often wondered if artists’ talent can be transmitted through the genes. Whether or not that is possible, Gail was an artist from the start of his life.
When Gail enrolled in college at the University of Oklahoma, he naturally majored in art. After earning a BFA in Art, Gail established a commercial art studio in Oklahoma City. After a successful career in the business of commercial art, Gail sold his part of the business and became a fulltime artist. He became a famous artist, whose work has hung in the Oklahoma State Capitol, in galleries in numerous cities, and in homes of art patrons across the nation.
Unlike many of us who were country boys, Gail wanted to be cool and sophisticated. Even though he sometimes wore rolled-up jeans and T-shirts, he also had dress clothes: slacks, sport shirts, and two-tone dress shoes. He listened to pop music instead of country. I recall sitting in his mother’s 1949 green Ford listening to music. We heard “Blue Tango” and “Kiss of Fire,” which Gail loved. I was trying to get him to dial up some Hank and Lefty. When he went to college, he joined the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, a place where few Bradley boys would have felt at home.
Like me, Gail longed to be an athlete, but neither of us had the size, strength, or skill to play sports. But, all summer we would play catch and play pepper ball in his yard or my yard. Oftentimes we would be joined by L.B. Hoyle, who was an excellent baseball player. I envied Gail because he spent one summer as a bat boy for the Chickasha Chiefs, a Class D team in the Sooner State League. He knew Al Blackaby, Ivan Wilkinson, and other Chief players. I longed to have that experience.
In my remarks at the cemetery, I mentioned that Gail was “different” from most of us. Nicole and several of the Bradley Boys laughed and nodded agreement. Gail was unconventional in many ways. He was a liberal free thinker, a questioner, who was ready to debate any issue. He was a champion of causes, one who, in the words of Robert Frost, took the road less traveled by. Once he ran for Mayor of Norman on a very liberal platform and received 25 per cent of the vote. He was a maverick, who enjoyed disturbing the complacent establishment. When Nicole was choosing the spot to place Gail’s marker among the Patterson graves in the Bradley Cemetery, Jay Mann and Sonny Mitchusson pointed out a spot at the right end of the graves. With a twinkle in her eye and a laugh, Nicole said, “No, let’s put his marker at the left end. He always leaned toward the left in everything he did.”
As I ended my remarks, I talked about Gail as one of the Old Bradley Boys. I mentioned a remark that L.B. Hoyle made about Gail and many of the Old Bradley Boys. He said that many of us lost touch with each other as we concentrated on building our careers in our middle years. Then, as we grew older, we had time to think about our boyhood years in Bradley, to remember our friends from those days, and to develop a longing to recover some of the past that now means so much to us. In our older years, we have become a “band of brothers,” bound together by our past.
As I ended my remarks, E.J. Branch and Shorty McCaleb played and sang the kind of music Gail had come to love. As the songs ended, Nicole opened the box containing Gail’s ashes. She invited anyone who so desired to take a small glass of Gail’s ashes and spread them around the base of the Post Oak tree, as Gail had asked her to do. As the last of the ashes were spread and the service ended, I felt a sense of peace, knowing that Gail’s wishes had been carried out.
E-mail Jerry Nye at email@example.com or write to 1438 Pine, Weatherford, OK 73096.