FAIRMONT — Funeral Services for Richard “Dick” S. Bradley, 91, of Fairmont, MN will be held at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, January 18, 2020, at the United Methodist Church in Fairmont. Military honors by the Lee C. Prentice American Legion Post #36 and the Martin County Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #1222 will be held outside the church immediately following the service. Burial will be held at Lakeside Cemetery in Fairmont. Visitation will be held 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 17, 2020 at Lakeview Funeral Home in Fairmont and will continue for one hour prior to the service at the church on Saturday. Dick passed away Monday morning, January 6, 2020 at his home in Fairmont. Memorials are preferred to the Salvation Army or Lakeview Methodist Health Care Center in Fairmont. The Lakeview Funeral Home and Cremation Service of Fairmont is assisting the family with arrangements.
Sometimes in this world you meet someone who is just a little larger than life. Richard (“Dick”) Staring Bradley, the founder of Weigh-Tronix, was one of those people. Born on May 24, 1928 in Teaneck, New Jersey, he was the son of Harry W. and Evelyn D. Bradley. Dick had one brother, Harry Jr, and three sisters, Mary, Ann, and Ellen. He graduated from Tenafly High School in February 1946 where he scored the winning touchdown against St. Cecilia High School and its head coach, future football giant, Vince Lombardi.
Dick studied aeronautical, electrical and mechanical engineering at Syracuse and New York Universities. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1946 completing basic and advanced flight training at Naval Air Stations (NAS) Pensacola (FL) and Corpus Christi (TX).
He was awarded Naval Aviator wings and certified to fly F4U Corsairs in May of 1950. During advanced flight training his plane caught on fire and he became the 1st cadet in Navy history to successfully bail out of a Corsair, earning him the honor of becoming a member of the Caterpillar Club, an elite group of pilots whose lives were saved from a disabled plane by a silk parachute. Dick hung the rip-cord in his home office as a sober reminder that life’s fortunes can change in an instant.
Dick was transferred to NAS Jacksonville and assigned to fighter squadron VF-44 on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea. Between tours of duty in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and performing air shows in Paris, he met, Mary Elizabeth (“Libby”) Boylin. They were married on December 26, 1951, in Folkston, GA.
Dick was honorably discharged in 1952 and moved Libby and son Jim to New Milford, NJ where he began work at Republic Aviation. At Republic he came under the watchful eye of world-renowned aeronautical engineer Alexander Kartveli.
Kartveli chose Dick to lead a 4-man team to design the wing root for the F-105 Thunderchief supersonic fighter-bomber. The design proved to be a highly successful stress and strain engineering accomplishment enabling the jet to achieve Mach 2 speeds. It became the Air Force’s front-line fighter during the Vietnam conflict.
In 1954 Dick went to work at the Pioneer Aerospace division of Bendix in Teterboro, NJ where he designed the servo system for the automatic pilot in the Boeing 707 commercial jet-liner. His system was used later on other commercial and military jets.
In 1958, at the insistence of the US Air Force, Bendix assigned Dick the lead role in the design of the servo mechanism for the flight stabilization system on the US Air Force “Dyna-Soar” project. The Dyna-Soar was a space re-entry vehicle concept, an early predecessor of the NASA Space Shuttle.
In 1959 Dick was recruited by the Avien Corporation in New York City. He accepted their offer and began designing antennae for the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Navy.
During the latter half of the 1950s he became interested in a new sensor called a “strain gage” which was used for conducting research stress and strain analysis. Dick believed it had commercial potential. In 1960 he started his own company, Mechanical Systems, to pursue that interest.
His first projects included the design of the antenna for the Polaris US Naval submarine and a speed controller and power supply for the US Government VORTAC antennae system used at commercial airports across the country and on Naval ships.
In the mid-1960s he was awarded contracts by the New York Port Authority which gave him the opportunity to use strain gages. These projects included work on the Lincoln Tunnel, the underground transit tubes for the World Trade Center, and the expansion joints on the George Washington Bridge. The projects were a resounding success, advancing Dick’s reputation as a stress and strain engineer.
Sport fishing was one of Dick’s passions. In the spring of 1967 he had the opportunity to join a group of men from Iowa on a fishing trip to Canada. During that trip he was asked whether it was possible to develop an on-board weighing system for the Arts-Way grinder-mixer. His reply was, “Yes, but what’s a grinder-mixer?” He visited the Arts-Way manufacturing plant in Armstrong, IA, on his way home and met with president, Art Luscombe, to discuss the possibilities.
Arts-Way wanted the product but was not in a position to advance development funds. Dick took on the challenge anyway and spent a tough 3 years developing a successful prototype on his own nickel. The heart of the new onboard scale was his patented strain gage weight sensor, the “Weigh Bar”.
The prototype had exciting potential and Arts-Way’s Board of Directors offered to purchase his company, setting up an electronic scale division in Armstrong with Dick in charge.
Dick and Libby bought a home on Budd Lake in Fairmont, MN in 1970 and Arts-Way moved the family, now including Richard, Jr. and Sherry Lee, from New Jersey. They learned to love Southern Minnesota, developing a network of close friends, many of them from Interlaken Golf Club.
Arts-Way incorporated the new division as a subsidiary in 1971 named “Weigh-Tronix”. In 1972, with the agricultural side of the business expanding at a healthy pace, Dick and his engineers began working on an electronic scale for industrial applications.
Weigh-Tronix achieved a major milestone in 1974 when its industrial scale indicator became the first electronic scale in the world to achieve certification by the National Bureau of Standards for “Legal-for-Trade” applications. Growth ramped up and the 14,000 square foot building in Iowa became crowded.
In the summer of 1976, Dick moved Weigh-Tronix to an 80,000 square foot building at its current location on Armstrong Drive, just west of Fairmont. Subsequent additions have more than tripled the size of the plant.
In 1980 Weigh-Tronix was so successful in its own right that the Board of Directors spun it off from Arts-Way into a separate publicly-traded company.
Between 1971 and 1991 Dick and his cadre of talented engineers, manufacturing and marketing personnel grew Weigh-Tronix into the 2nd largest scale manufacturer in the world. They developed products that were used in a host of applications, industry, agriculture, shipping, and rail freight. The Weigh Bar made it possible for the company to sell scales with a capacity from 2 to 750,000 lbs. During Dick’s tenure as President, Weigh-Tronix brought roughly 150 million dollars in wage and salary income alone to Fairmont and Martin County.
In 1990 Dick chose to retire. Staveley Enterprises had purchased a controlling interest in the company in 1986 and Weigh-Tronix was entering a new phase of its development. It was time to focus on Libby and life.
Over the next seven years they spent their summers in Fairmont and winters in Estero, FL. In early 1997, after 46-years of marriage, Dick lost Libby to complications from heart surgery. She had been his mainstay, always at his side, helping him develop his career and the company. In his last few years he often called her “the love of my life”.
In late 1997 Dick met Shirley March on a blind-date. They were married in 1998 in Estero and became a close and loving couple, enjoying golf and travel. Dick had the grief of losing Shirley to lymphoma in December of 2015.
Left to cherish Dick’s memory are his sister, Ann Bodin of Tampa, FL; his children, Jim (Jan) Bradley of La Habra, CA and Richard (Diana) Bradley of Wheaton, IL; his grandchildren, Phoebe (Brian) Wickliffe of Portland, OR; Clement Bradley of Mexico; Tabitha (Andrew) Fellowes of Broomfield, CO; Chloe (Mike) Free of Downers Grove, IL; and two great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind his step-children, Bob March; Gloria March of Fairmont; Susan (Frank) Carruth; Lisa (Kevin) Six; Shirley’s eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; Libby’s oldest daughter, Beverly Santarose; his niece, Linda Hebert; and nephew, Kenneth Reed.
Dick is preceded in death by his first wife Mary E. “Libby” Bradley (d.1997) and his second wife Shirley D. Bradley (d. 2015); his parents Harry W. and Evelyn D. Bradley; his brother Harry W. Bradley, Jr.; his sisters Mary E. Halien and Ellen Bradley, and his daughter Sherry L. Bradley (Lunz).
“Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43