A dear friend of many in Sutton, New London, Wilmot and elsewhere, Carlton Bradford on March 8th passed away in his home, just as he had wished, without pain and without fear.
Carlton Russell Bradford Jr. was born in North Sutton on 28 March 1926, to parents Carlton R. Bradford Sr. and Beatrice (Frost) Bradford. He enjoyed what he described as an idyllic childhood, attending Sutton’s one-room schoolhouse; making frequent trips to the Vernondale Store for penny candy; and roaming busy Kezar Lake where, as a teenager, he worked as a pin-spotter at the Lake’s bowling alley. He witnessed the paving of Sutton’s dirt roads and took delight in telling the story of how he learned that asphalt was not a good substitute for chewing gum, as one of his friends had insisted.
During World War Two, Carlton persuaded his parents to grant him permission to join the U.S. Navy
at age 17, serving from 1943 to 1946, and then attending the University of New Hampshire on the G.I. Bill. After graduation, he worked in cancer research at the Harvard School of Public Health and MIT, then spent fifteen years working under the noted American Physicist Robert Van De Graf at High Voltage Engineering in MA, selling linear accelerators used for radiation therapy.
In 1966, Carlton came home to his roots, moving to New London. A lifelong lover of books and literature, Carlton purchased a bookstore that he built into the renowned Kearsarge Bookshelf. Faced with soaring rents in 1984, Carlton became an entrepreneur and built “The Gallery” on Newport Road in New London that housed his bookstore and continues to be the home of many thriving businesses today.
During his years as a bookseller, he became an author himself, writing four books: Out of Tin Boxes (2001), a chro
nological rendition of the records of the first two generations of the Harvey Family at Muster Field Farm; Jo (2005), his account of the life of Jo Frohling, a Jewish woman who suffered under Hitler and whom he had met in his bookstore in 1965; The Retailer Who Needed a Roof Over His Head (2005), chronicling his building of the Gallery.
Carlton’s crowning work as an author came just a few years ago when, in his 90’s, he wrote the charming A Boy, His Village and his Lake -- North Sutton in the 1930s. The thin but poignant volume is a nostalgic and historically fascinating account of a youth spent in a community that bustled each summer with numerous summer camps, hotels and casinos. The book has sold hundreds of copies and will be read for as long as people enjoy circumambulating Carlton’s beloved Kezar Lake (Not to be missed, it’s available at Morgan Hill Bookstore and comes with a map of the Lake back in the day).
As a proud 12th generation dir
ect descendant of Governor William Bradford of the Mayflower, Carlton’s love of history inspired him to spend countless hours researching his own town history, delving into sources at the town hall, Sutton Historical Society, Muster Field Farm and Concord. For more than thirty years he helped organize and preserve historical records to make them available to future town residents and historians.
Restlessly active in his community, Carlton received numerous accolades and honors from a great many organizations as an historian, author, talented singer, successful entrepreneur and businessman, and artist. His many paintings of local landscapes and buildings from his childhood can still be seen on walls throughout the community. He was proud to have won New London’s “Third-of-a-Century Award,” given to residents who’ve performed thirty-three years or more of service to the community. Very few local organizations exist that did not, at one time, benefit from Carlton’s enthusiasm and hard work.
However, the achievements that Carlton most appreciated were the many, many friendships he grew, tended and cherished during nearly a century of life in the Kearsarge region. He was a go
od listener who to his dying day was interested in any and every activity, pursuit and thought known to
humankind. Living in near blindness as a result of macular deneration, he listened to audible books by the dozens. In the last year of his life, he delved deeply into subjects as varied as ancient history, politics, quantum physics and Buddhism. It’s been said that the Glory of God is found in a human life fully alive. Carlton was constantly, ceaselessly, fully alive.
Carlton is survived and missed by his brother-in-law Richard Thibedeau and many nieces, nephews, and cousins, and countless friends in the Kearsarge region. He was predeceased by his first wife Dorothy (Hale) Bradford, his second wife Margaret (Thibedeau) Bradford, and sisters Corinne French and Ruth Leavitt.
A service of celebration of Carlton’s life will be held at the South Sutton Meetinghouse at a later day, in June.
Memorial contributions may be made to NH Mayflower Society Descendants Scholarship Fund (nhmayflower.org)