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Dan Kuehnast, left, presented Bob Bradford with the 1990 Industry of the Year Award. (News file photo)

Former Northfield News publisher Bob Bradford II is being remembered as a man who loved education and sought to create a strong editorial page for the paper.

Bradford, publisher of the News from 1983 to 1998, died Wednesday at the age of 80 at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis of pulmonary fibrosis and pneumonia.

Scott Richardson, Northfield News general manager from 1985 to 1994, remembered him as valuing education and identifying people partially by learning where they attended college.

“He really valued Northfield because of its two colleges and its strong tradition of supporting education,” Richardson said. “Education was something he valued highly, and I think that’s probably what drew him to Northfield.”

Richardson recalled Bradford as first and foremost being a businessperson but as also understanding that having strong local news coverage was a foundation for a good business strategy. He said as publisher, Bradford gave his news team much room to chronicle Northfield happenings and keep the newspaper a must-read publication.

Bradford II encouraged his staff to create a lively editorial page and welcomed political endorsements. He also promoted large special sections and aggressive local government coverage.

“Bob was a character of sorts,” Richardson said. He remembered Bradford for having a good sense of humor and irony and frequently clicking his bald point pen when he was worried.

Bradford, born Nov. 4, 1938, in Bertha, was the great-great grandson of Lt. Col. George Armistead, the commander of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812. When Armistead arrived at Fort McHenry, he ordered a large enough flag for the British to see from a long distance. That flag became known as the Star-Spangled Banner flag, the subject of a poem by Francis Scott Key, which inspired the American national anthem.

Bradford went to elementary school in Verndale and junior and senior high school in Moose Lake before attending Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He graduated from the University of North Dakota-Grand Forks in 1960 and worked at the Austin Daily Herald before joining his father, Robert Lee Bradford, at the Moose Lake Star Gazette in 1973. Over a number of years, Bradford bought a number of newspapers later owned by Huckle Publishing and now Adams Publishing Group, including the News, Waseca County News, St. Peter Herald, Janesville Argus, Le Sueur News-Herald and Le Center Leader.

Bradford’s Northfield involvement spanned beyond journalism. He was the Community Resource Bank board director from 1987 to 2012 and a Northfield Rotary Club member.

He was also a member of the Minneapolis Club, Minneapolis-based St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minnesota Society of War of 1812, Minnesota Newspaper Association, Kiwanis Clubs of Moose Lake and New Richmond, Wisconsin, and other organizations.

Other newspapers Bradford owned included the Barnum Herald, Madelia Times-Messenger, St. James Plaindealer, Redwood Gazette, Montevideo American News, Granite Falls Advocate-Tribune, Sleepy Eye Herald-Dispatch, New Richmond News, Burnett County Sentinel, Dassel-Cokato Enterprise-Dispatch and New Ulm Post-Review.

He and his wife, Betsy, lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, since 1998 and maintained a downtown Minneapolis home.

Rebound Enterprises Managing Partner/CEO Brett Reese, who knew Bradford II when he worked in Northfield, described him as a “very influential” person who made an impact on the community through the newspaper and his personality. Reese said Bradford II generated good ideas and was clever, successful and smart.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115.

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