Son removed as guardian; family battle goes on

Posted: Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Scratchy voices from 300 miles away struggled out of a speaker phone and filled the dark, warm conference room in the Salamatof Building in Kenai Monday. The voices, at times inaudible, and at times unintelligible, belonged to lawyers and witnesses in the courtroom of Standing Master Alicemary Closuit of Fairbanks Superior Court. They discussed the future of 88-year-old Kenai resident Sophie Bradley, who attended the hearing telephonically.

'(Les) can still live with her, and (Sophie) is not going to be removed from his home. I don't think anyone is ever going to remove her.'

_JoeRay Skrha, attorney for Sophie Bradley

After a long day of testimony, the magistrate decided Bradley's oldest son, Les, should be removed as his mother's guardian, and in his place Soldotna dentist Dan Pitts be appointed to oversee her well-being.

"He's going to check up on her, make sure her house is OK, her medications are OK, and that visitation with her sons are OK," said JoeRay Skrha, the attorney hired by the conservator of Bradley's assets.

So much is known about the latest proceedings in the Bradley case because Skrha, a Kenai personal injury and criminal attorney, was successful in having the hearings opened to the public and the gag order on the participants removed.

"(Les) can still live with her, and (Sophie) is not going to be removed from his home," Skrha said. "I don't think anyone is ever going to remove her."

Bradley came to live with her oldest son in Kenai more than a year ago after health problems robbed her of much of her independence. A dispute between her three sons over the future of the family airport in North Pole prompted the court to appoint Professional Guardian Services Corp. of Eagle River as full conservator of Bradley's estate. At the same time, Les was appointed partial guardian for purposes of visitation, housing and medical decisions.

Those responsibilities will now fall to Dan Pitts, a longtime friend of Les Bradley's.

"I've known Les for about 10 years, and know Sophie," Pitts said. "Les asked me if I would act as guardian, and I said I would."

Pitts said his duties, as they were described to him, were to check in on Sophie Bradley as much as she needs.

"Definitely every few days, to see how she is doing. I'll just make sure Sophie is being cared for and her needs are being met and that she's comfortable," he said. "I'll look out for her wants and needs and see that she stays happy and healthy for as long as she can, given her age."

Pitts said he is volunteering his time as Bradley's guardian. He said prior experience taking care of his wife's mother during her last years gave him the experience he needs to take care of Bradley.

While the guardian has the legal authority to do anything he needs to make sure Sophie Bradley is being taken care of, Les and his two brothers, Robert and Jamie, both of Fairbanks, have not lost their rights as sons.

"(Les) is still her son, still an interested party," Skrha said. "He has the same responsibilities before this case when there was nobody caring for (Sophie)."

Les Bradley was on the road between Fairbanks and Kenai and could not be reached for comment.

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