Things are looking up for Sophie Bradley, the 88-year-old Kenai woman whose estate is in the hands of a professional conservator against her will.
Bradley's three sons are now able to discuss a solution to the problems that have torn their family apart, and a state legislator is interested in better defining guardian and conservator laws.
The Bradley brothers, Les, of Kenai, and Robert and Jamie of the Fairbanks area, are allowed to meet with each other -- in the presence of their attorneys or a mutually agreed upon third party -- after Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Ralph Beistline relaxed the mutual restraining orders against the three on May 3. With certain exceptions, they still cannot be in the vicinity of each other outside of their negotiations.
"I have no animosity toward anyone in the family," said Robert Bradley. "It's time to forgive each other and say we're sorry, and go forward."
Les Bradley said Robert already has held out the olive branch of peace.
"As we were walking out of the courtroom, he hugged me and said, 'I love my brother,'" Les said.
Both brothers, on opposite sides of how the family business -- the Bradley Sky Ranch in North Pole -- and their mother's affairs should be handled, said they would like to see a meeting soon.
"We haven't gotten to the meeting stage yet, but I hope that comes about," Robert Bradley said on Thursday. "One drawback of the court system is that it is not expedient."
"There's a good possibility that an agreement can be reached. At least we can communicate now, even if it's with a third party," Les Bradley said. "We have to sit down and talk it out, and it has to be just the three of us, not Cheryl Bradley or Debra (Maldonado) Bradley."
Cheryl Bradley is the wife of the youngest Bradley son, Jamie. Debra Maldonado Bradley is the wife of Robert.
On a recent trip to visit her mother-in-law, Cheryl Bradley also was optimistic that her husband and his two brothers could work out an agreement allowing control of the airport to be returned to the family.
"We are hoping for that. I hesitate to talk about it so I don't squash the possibilities," she said. "Things may never be as they were, but we need to stop this cancer from continuing. It has got to end."
Currently, Professional Guardian Services Corp. of Eagle River operates the Bradley Sky Ranch and all of Sophie Bradley's finances under a court order from Fairbanks Magistrate Alicemary Closuit. While Maldonado has been blamed by Les, Jamie, Cheryl and even Sophie Bradley for much of the mess the family is in.
She and her husband deny the accusations.
"She has been the brunt of hatred for the last six years," Robert said of his wife. "An attorney asked her one day, 'You hate Jamie, don't you?' and she said, 'I love Jamie as God loves his children.'"
"I'm glad I don't hate these people," Maldonado added. "I wouldn't be able to sleep either."
She denies allegations by Sophie Bradley that she is a danger to her mother-in-law, or that she wants Sophie Bradley in her home and under her control, or in a retirement home. Her husband agreed, saying if his mother made an informed decision, he would be happy whether she decided to stay in Kenai or move back to North Pole.
"I believe she wants to be in her own home and around her family," Robert Bradley said.
He added that he didn't understand what motivates his family to speak badly about his wife, but speculated it might be jealousy.
"I don't know if it's a jealousy-type thing that Jamie and Cheryl have against my wife," he said. "She's an entrepreneur, is presently handling a million-dollar estate for her father, and has two businesses of her own. That might be a factor for them."
Maldonado said she and her husband were worth $2 million.
Robert Bradley countered allegations by his brother Les that his motivation for seeking a conservator for their mother is greed.
"There is no greed on my part," he said. "I've been in the state for 50 years, work for the Department of Defense, and I have no intention to leave. Greed is not my motivation."
Maldonado leveled some accusations of her own.
"Did you know Les was an alcoholic and barely got his pilot's license back?" Maldonado asked.
Les Bradley said it was all true.
"I'm Les, and I'm an alcoholic," Bradley said, repeating the greeting members of Alcoholics Anonymous use. "I've introduced myself to governors, senators and others that way for years."
Bradley said his 10th anniversary of sobriety is just a few months away.
"I don't use mouthwash because of the alcohol content, I didn't use aftershave for years, and I've had to look really hard for a hair spray without alcohol," he said. "I'm an alcoholic. I'm not proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it. It's another page in life, another experience. Some of us have to learn the hard way."
Les Bradley also is learning the hard way that dealing with the courts and lawyers and caring for an aging mother can be financially draining.
"I was just talking to my company about an advance," the pilot for Everts Air Fuel said. "I grossed $125,000 last year, and now I have $25 in my bank account."
He said he was not complaining and was not actively seeking restitution from Professional Guardian Services Corp.
"If they want to reimburse me, that would be fine, but I'm not asking for it," Les Bradley said. "I'm (caring for Sophie) more out of love than monetary compensation."
With the optimism that a deal can be struck between the three brothers in the near future, Les and Cheryl Bradley now want to turn their attention toward changing state law so that what happened to Sophie Bradley can never happen to anyone else.
"I think that the things causing this problem, outside the family, is the fact that statutes are inadequate to keep these events from happening, because of the lack of direction," Cheryl Bradley said. "There should be some sort of state audit or stricter licensing (of guardian services) from agencies."
The case has attracted the interest of Rep. Hal Smalley, D-Kenai, who met with Sophie Bradley twice this year, most recently on Wednesday, when Cheryl Bradley was in town. After visiting with Smalley, Cheryl Bradley said she believes him to be extremely sincere about defining the law better.
"I truly believe he is taking the initiative. I think he feels the urgency to address this issue," she said. "He has already done some initial work."
For his part, Smalley told the Clarion earlier this month that he is addressing the roles of conservators and guardians in Alaska.
"Hopefully it will prevent cases like Bradley's in the future," Smalley said.
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