Obituary: Jeanne Bradner, former Winnetka village president
Updated: June 28, 2012 6:17PM
Those who knew Jeanne Bradner said that her ability to draw people into causes was more than organizational prowess, or even raw enthusiasm. Instead, her own dedication, and her insistence on the importance of volunteers, inspired those around her.
“She had no idea she was generating all the admiration she did, because she was a very humble person,” long time friend and former Winnetka village president Gwen Trindl said Tuesday. “But in terms of understanding how to encourage people, she was incredibly talented.”
Bradner, a former Winnetka trustee who also served as Village president from 1989 to 1993, died June 14 at Bethany Terrace Nursing Center in Morton Grove of complications from Parkinson’s disease. She was 80.
Bradner was born in Richmond, California, but moved to Chicago in 1953 to study music. The former Jeanne Hunt’s vocal studies did not lead to a professional career, but her move to Chicago resulted in meeting Bob Bradner, her future husband, when both were members of the 42nd Ward Young Republican organization.
“She was a lovely, smart, sparking, beautiful woman, but what made the light bulb go off for me was the compatibility of our values,” her husband said. “I wondered, ‘Good heavens, why haven’t you asked her to marry you?’”
They moved to Winnetka in 1967, where Mrs. Bradner joined the League of Women Voters. She eventually became president of the Winnetka/Northfield/Kenilworth League, and later she became secretary of the Illinois League of Women Voters.
In 1977 she was asked to run as a moderate Repubican in the 1978 1st District state senate seat primary. Although she lost the primary to eventual seat winner Roger Keats, she continued her political activity. She became 10th District coordinator for Senator Charles Percy in 1978 and, after the election, served as Percy’s executive finance director.
In 1979 she was director of John Anderson’s presidential campaign in Illinois, and was a delegate at the GOP presidential campaign – where, her husband said, she was popular with media, “because she understood long before many others did, that you had to get your points out in 30 seconds or less.”
In 1981 she began work for what was then known as the Association for Retarded Citizens of Illinois, serving until 1983 to raise funds and awareness for disabled children and adults.
Her volunteer work continued in 1984, when she was hired as director of the Governor’s Office of Voluntary Action, where she served for six years. She left that office in 1990, when she was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to be regional director of action for ACTION, the federal domestic volunteer agency.
She became a well-known speaker and writer on volunteer and non-profit management, teaching courses at Harper College, and writing books, including “Passionate Volunteerism,” “Leading Volunteers for Results” and “A Board Member’s Guide.”
She became a Winnetka trustee in 1979, serving until 1983, and then returning to the board as president.
Her many political and volunteer missions and campaigns generally started the same way according to her husband: “There was a pattern, in which people would watch her in action in one thing, be impressed by her and then ask her to do something else.”
Mrs. Bradner also excelled at mentoring younger women, he said, inspiring them by example and with good advice.
“She took enormous joy in doing that.”
In 2009 Mrs. Bradner and her husband moved to Glenview.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Bradner is survived by her daughters Anne (Steven Gates) of Harrison, New York and Lisa (James Burnham) of Glencoe; her son Robert (Jerrilyn) of Vienna, Virginia; five grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sept. 15 in Christ Church, 784 Sheridan Road in Winnetka.