I was reading the Tempo section in the Trib, 28 years ago, and there was a story about a woman I knew, Anne Bradley, a wonderful local portrait photographer who specialized in black-and-white images of children — including our son, Ben. 

The story reported that Bradley had become a foster mom in a new program crafted by Lutheran Social Services out of its offices on North Avenue in Oak Park. Very focused, very topical, the Second Families program was intended to place babies who had been born HIV-exposed into foster care, based on then-current reality that birth parents with AIDS were not expected be able to raise those children. 

It was a different moment. 

AIDS was still imminently deadly. We were on the very cusp of new and aggressive drug treatments — the cocktail — which offered longer lives for both adults and, boldly, for kids and babies.

I ripped the piece out of the paper and brought it home to show my wife Mary. “Isn’t this remarkable? What a woman Anne Bradley is,” was my remembered comment as I handed the story to Mary. 

“We’ve got to do this. How do we start?” was Mary’s response.

This sort of determined-but-impetuous reply is how we’d wound up buying a stick-shift Honda we couldn’t drive off the lot of a dealership in the far west suburbs. And more notably how we bought a two-flat with my folks when they announced they were selling the family home on Taylor. We were driving down the alley to see them after getting the news when Mary said, “We need to buy a two-flat. Let’s go talk about that right now.”

Best decision we ever made. Seventeen great years of caregiving and care-receiving. 

This all comes to mind now with the news of Anne Bradley’s recent death. 

Her daughter Lisa Green, also a photographer, wrote a loving and vivid post on Facebook describing a mother’s love and recalling her mom as a nurse, photographer, artist and race car driver. I’d missed the race car era.

In an email to me later, Lisa remembered the life-bending impact so many of us felt. She and her husband adopted the baby Anne had fostered. He’s 26 now and engaged, she reported. The parents of Nancy Sward, our LSSI social worker, also adopted a child. (It was Nancy who, way down our path to becoming state-licensed foster parents, casually said, “Did I mention 80% of our fosters turn into adoptions?”

Which brings us to Mariah, our daughter who recently turned 27. We unbundled her from her car seat after she had been delivered from Prentice Women’s Hospital to an LSSI office upstairs at the old Marshall Field’s on Lake Street. It was love that day and every day since. 

As an infant, she struggled through withdrawal from opiates and was given the strong HIV drugs that saved her life, and the lives of so many of the babies in that moment in Second Family. Gave her a will of iron though she may also have gotten some of that genetically from her birth mom who, miraculously, is still alive and making her way.

These paths would never have crossed except for the loving and pioneering path of Anne Bradley, whom we think of with joy and appreciation.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...