By Ryan Flynn
As I walked into the home of Illinois legend Ken Bradbury this fall morning, I couldn’t help but relish in the fact that while I long wanted to interview Mr. Bradbury, the idea was finally coming to fruition.
Bradbury’s home is a reflection of himself. It’s modest on first glance, but as you look further and gain more of an understanding of its makeup, you can see how much time and grace it took to construct. Ken Bradbury describes his life as a series of good, fortunate steps, saying he happily did not have a plan. When he first started at Triopia CUSD #27, they asked him if he could direct plays, and he said, “Yes!” He had seen one in high school.
Asking more about his background, he says he’s never had to apply for a job. He simply keeps getting asked to do stuff. He wasn’t sure why, but if I had to guess, I’d point to his genuineness, and his caring about this community in which he grew up. Bradbury graduated from Illinois College in 1971 and was quickly snatched up to be a teacher at Triopia upon graduating, although when he began he was more interested in saving money to become an undertaker than to be a teacher.
Over the course of his career, Bradbury has had numerous publications, ranging from novels to newspaper columns, and has written over 500 plays and musicals! His Associated Press award-winning newspaper column, The Coonridge Digest, appears in 14 newspapers in Illinois and Missouri. Many Jacksonville residents have probably read his regular columns in The Source.
He’s done all these amazing things, inspired so many people, and yet upon meeting him you wouldn’t know it. Ken Bradbury is just too humble. However, one thing is very clear; he truly cares. He cares about this community. He cares about the people he’s met and the kids he’s worked to inspire with his art. He cares about his friend, John Love, a longtime student of his, who’s launching into his own theater career.
His caring was on full display as we talked about Big Brothers Big Sisters and his upcoming participation in an event, The Roast of Ken Bradbury. The comedy event fundraiser will be hosted by the organization at Hamilton’s on Friday, October 14. Ken is all for the organization’s mission to mentor West Central Illinois’ youth. As Bradbury said, “There’s a difference between an agency knocking on your door and an individual who is there out of the goodness of their heart.” On October 14, Bradbury will take the stage for Big Brothers Big Sisters, but this time, the script is on him.
Tickets for The Roast of Ken Bradbury are on sale now and can be purchased at www.bigbrothersbigsisterswci.org or by phone at 217-243-3821.