May 30, 2022
Remembering a Mount Pleasant Icon: Lea and Jerry Bradley's Hospice Story
Married for over 56 years, Lea and Jerry Bradley had spent their lives taking care of each other. Business decisions, raising a family and navigating through health crises had taught them many things, but above all, they learned how to take care of each other.
Lea and Jerry met when she was 18 and he was 23. “Jerry’s father had died and his mother and three younger siblings lived above the pizza place where I was a waitress,” remembers Lea. “Jerry had a night job at a factory and he would come downstairs to eat before he would go to work. He always said I served him the first pizza he ever ate. That’s how we met.”
The pizza place was George’s Pizza in Fairfield and in 1967, the owner decided to open another location in Mt. Pleasant. Jerry took the job running the new location. He did so for four years, then decided to buy the owner out and make it his own. “We were told we could use George’s name on the place for $300 a month,” says Lea. “I said, Jerry, I don’t care whose name you put on here, we’re not going to pay $300 a month!” And that’s how it became the Mt. Pleasant landmark called Jerry’s Pizza.
Lea and Jerry ran Jerry’s Pizza together for 52 years.
In her spare time, Lea became active as an advisory board member for the EveryStep team in Mt. Pleasant. She served on the local advisory board for over a decade and became familiar with EveryStep’s programs, especially the hospice program.
When he was 72, Jerry was diagnosed with bladder cancer. The treatment prescribed, Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), is the most common immunotherapy for treating bladder cancer. BCG is a germ that's related to the one that causes tuberculosis (TB), but it doesn't usually cause serious disease. But Jerry had an unusual reaction to the treatment. While the cancer went into remission, he developed TB.
“After we got the TB under control, his bladder cancer recurred. Then they discovered he had prostate cancer as well,” says Lea. “It was just crisis after crisis after crisis. We almost lost him about five years ago while he was in the hospital in Iowa City.”
Jerry’s condition worsened, but Lea was not taken by surprise. “I was kind of ready for it,” says Lea. “After almost losing him once before, I kind of look at it that we got an extra five years we might not have had and I’m grateful for that.”
Lea remembered her ties to EveryStep and knew hospice was the right decision. “In retrospect, I look back and wish I had brought him home from the hospital earlier than I did, and had engaged EveryStep Hospice sooner.” Lea talked to EveryStep Hospice’s Mt. Pleasant team on a Tuesday, Jerry went into home hospice care on Wednesday and he passed away on Sunday. “He knew he was at home,” says Lea. “He was coherent and knew he was home. One of his wishes was that he never had to go to a nursing home and he never had to. I’m just grateful that we were able to accomplish that.”
Lea appreciates the care Jerry received over those five days. “I feel he got more personal attention. The gal would give Jerry a thorough bed bath and I could just tell he was more comfortable,” says Lea. We were also able to have the whole family around him — the kids and grandkids were all there.”
Jerry passed away at age 83 on November 14, 2021.
A strong advocate of EveryStep Hospice, Lea continues to urge others in her situation to consider contacting EveryStep Hospice about the services provided.
“I would definitely advise it because it makes everyone’s life much easier. A friend of mine was 100 years old. I explained to her that the hospice nurses would help with things that the regular nursing home staff might not have time for, like giving her baths, monitoring her medicine closely and just making her life more comfortable. I encouraged her to take on EveryStep Hospice care in Mt. Pleasant, and she did.” Lea’s friend passed away peacefully on February 16 of this year.
“I would encourage anyone, when the time comes, to consider EveryStep Hospice,” says Lea. “I just think it makes everybody’s life easier and more comfortable, especially for the patient.”
To learn more about care options for yourself or a loved one, complete EveryStep’s “Find Care” form at everystep.org/find-care. EveryStep staff will then call you to answer your questions and to see if your loved one could benefit from a free hospice referral visit.
To learn more about the services EveryStep Hospice offers, visit www.everystep.org/services/hospice.