GORDON BRAD HALL
Name: GORDON BRAD HALL
Entry Date: '58
Exit Date: '60
Status: D: 07/?/1997
Ensign Hall 1958
Crew 5: left to right- Smith,radar--J.Punches,co-pilot--Brad Hall, pilot--K. Terp,ord.--T.Mancuso, plane capt.--W.Dunphy, radio--J.Carter,elec--W.Stevens, 2nd mech.--(?)-- Schafer Bean,nav. Roosevelt Roads, February 1962
Susan, Brad, Carol 1971
Commander Hall 1971
Rector Brad Hall 1984
“G. Bradford Hall, Jr.
A Tribute to a Remarkable Man
Much of the following was taken from a book entitled, “The Journey Home – Make It a Good One,” published in 1998 under the auspices of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, located in Palm Desert, California. The author, Peggy Herz Smith, assembled a collection of sermons and testimonials as “…a tribute to the great life and ministry of Brad Hall, a parish priest and teacher of soaring intellect and faith.” Unfortunately, the book is no longer in print, and cannot be purchased through any known source.
Peggy Herz Smith makes the following comments in the preface of her book:
“Brad Hall died on July 16, 1997, but for all those who knew and loved him, he left a magnificent legacy: the towering strength of his faith, conviction, leadership, intellect…and his joyous belief in his God, his Church and his fellow human beings. He was a thinker and speaker of soaring eloquence. In his remarkable sermons, he left a glorious accounting of the power and clarity of his faith. With words of wisdom, hope and love, he guided and challenged us – spiritually, intellectually and emotionally…and whether his words were read or heard, they never failed to guide, steady and inspire all of us.” Brad Hall? Sure, there was a LT(jg) Brad Hall who served with VP-21 before and after 1960 but, as I recall, I met that Brad Hall when I first checked into the squadron in August 1959. At that time I believe he may have been the co-pilot on Airmail 5. I was impressed by him, but because I had much to learn and many people to meet, I had little opportunity to regard him as anything more than a fellow officer at first. Following the path taken by all new aviators, my tour began as the PP3P/Nav on Airmail 5, flying with LT Jack Frost, LT Ed Hope, LT(jg) Hank Buczek and LT(jg) Perry Winn, Tom Mancuso, AD2 plane capt. and John G. Esposito for most of 1960, along with other crewmembers whose names I have forgotten, The crew flew the SP2H “Neptune” and they made the deployment to Iceland along with a few side trips to Europe, keeping track of the elusive Soviet navy, and scaring polar bears along the East Coast of Greenland.
Sometime in 1961, Brad won a prized assignment to Airmail 5 as the Patrol Plane Commander. Some of the new crew members assigned to him included LT(jg) Jerry Punches as the co-pilot, LT(jg) Ted Pearce as the Navigator/Tacco, and AD2 Tom Mancuso as the plane captain. This crew made the deployment to Argentia, Newfoundland and spent the summer of 1961 patrolling the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic. Brad Hall was a married guy, with a sweet wife named Carol Jean at home in Brunswick, Maine, but he always had time to spend with the aircrew after the flights or to join the guys for a beer at happy hour at the O’club on Fridays. From these associations, Brad made many lasting friendships. He was a career Naval Officer and when he left the squadron in 1962, he was headed for shore duty at the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California. This can’t be the same Brad Hall as Brad Hall the priest; there must be some mistake. But, as the book says: “He sounds like two people when you read his resume. He was a twenty-year naval officer who loved to fly. He talked of long night flights over the North Sea tracking Russian submarines -dangerous, scary stuff. He thrived on it and he was good, and his superiors knew it.”
Yes, this is the same Brad Hall. The same Brad Hall who was noted for his intellect and wide range of interests when he was in VP-21. The same excellent naval officer who had an easy rapport with everyone he met and a quiet sense of dignity which instantly inspired trust and confidence in every person with whom he came in contact. There was just something special about him, and everyone knew it. What follows is a brief summary of his life and accomplishments, paraphrased from The Journey Home, with additional information and reflections provided by Brad’s widow, Carol Jean Hall, his daughter, Susan Hall, and other friends and acquaintances who were influenced by this remarkable man.
The story begins in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1934 when Brad and his twin brother Bob were born. He and Bob were Boy Scouts and they loved the out-of-doors. Younger brother Ray came along several years later. Brad graduated high school at age 16 and went to live in South Carolina with an aunt. While there, he worked in a research lab at a textile mill and eventually received a Naval ROTC scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina (UNC). In 1953 he was appointed a Midshipman in the Naval Reserve, and following his graduation from UNC in June, 1957 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics, he reported
to NAS Pensacola for basic flight training.
On October 11, 1958 Brad completed flight training and “got his wings.” Sometime before that, a young lady named Carol Jean Suther from Kannapolis, North Carolina, had attracted his attention. He had met her in 1957 when they were both students at UNC, and four weeks after they met, they were unofficially engaged. Carol Jean noted in The Journey: “He was always very active. He woke up sparkling. He could do more in a day than any person I’ve ever seen. He could always accomplish so much and enjoy doing it. He went to parochial school until he was sixteen. He was going to the Episcopal Church when I met him in college.” Brad graduated Phi Beta Kappa; clearly, he was smart in many ways, for he knew when he met Carol that he had found a remarkable woman with whom he wanted to share the rest of his life. On October 18, 1958 Brad and Carol Jean began their life together as a married couple.
In November, 1958 Brad reported for duty with Patrol Squadron 21 at NAS Brunswick, Maine. He was promoted to LT(jg) on December 7, 1958. Some mementos in Brad’s possessions suggest that he began his tour of duty in the squadron on Airmail 4 before moving to Airmail 5. He had several assignments within the squadron until 1962 when he obtained orders to the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California. He had been accepted into the Aeronautical Engineering program.
In June, 1963 Brad was selected by the Navy to attend a two-year course of study in Aeronautical Science and Engineering at the College of Aeronautics, Cranfield in Bletchley Bucks, England. While there, he was on the Cranfield Rowing Team and he was graduated from Cranfield in July, 1965. Following his return from Cranfield, he received his Master of Science in Aeronautical Engineering Degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in August, 1965.
For the next two years, Brad and Carol Jean were in Norfolk, Virginia, where Brad was flying P3’s. Then it was back to the Naval Postgraduate School in July, 1967 where Brad became the Assistant to the Curricular Officer for Aeronautical Engineering Programs. He held this position until February, 1970. Along the way he earned a Master of Science in Management Degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in October, 1969 and the Navy Achievement Medal for superior performance of duty at the end of his tour of duty. He received another bonus of sorts when daughter Susan was born on his birthday, March 1, 1970. Three weeks later, the new family moved to Coronado, California, for their next assignment.Brad and Carol and Susan lived in Coronado from 1970 to 1974. He was assigned to the Naval Rework Facility at NAS North Island where he was the Assistant Production Officer for Military Construction, Management Services Officer and Comptroller, and F-4N Program Director. His exceptional performance in these positions earned for him the Meritorious Service Medal. He had been promoted to Commander, USN, on July 1, 1971. Brad was definitely an officer in the U.S. Navy whose career was on the rise.
On April 29, 1970 he went to the Navy hospital in San Diego for what he considered a quick visit with the doctor. The intestinal bleeding he had was a sign of colitis and he was admitted to the hospital for observation. He spent an endless number of days there, waiting, and getting more and more depressed; he’d just gotten a bigger and better job at the nearby Air Station and was about to be checked-out in the new E-2 airplane. The one thing that kept him going during his long stay was the daily visits of his wife, Carol. His extended hospital stay led to a period of personal and mental deterioration in which he began to lose touch with the Navy, his work, airplanes, and life in general.
After he was discharged from the hospital, he went to his home in San Diego and considered his situation. He realized that his insides were falling apart and that he may be nearing the end of the line. He wept for the first time in many years. At this low point in his life, he states:
“I reached over to my bookcase and grabbed a Bible. It was a zippered King James Version which the dean of my college had given to me upon my graduation fifteen years previously. I unzipped the zipper for the first time and within a few days read the whole complex story from beginning to end. It was the start of a seven-year quest.” Later, on one occasion in 1971, he was asked by his Commanding Officer to attend a weekend Navy drug rehabilitation workshop as an observer. The C.O. wanted the program, named Credo, checked out; some of the young lads in his command had been experimenting with drugs. Brad described the experience in one of his subsequent sermons:
“There were about thirty young men and women attending, all of whom were going through incredibly difficult life experiences, all using and abusing drugs. It was a tough and honest workshop and I heard stories of early-life experiences which not only shocked me, but also which I often just could not believe…The workshop began on Thursday evening and by closing time Sunday I was thoroughly beat, depressed and confused…”
But apparently there is some truth to the adage that, “The Lord Works in Mysterious Ways.” Brad had met one of the sailors at the workshop named Charlie who was suffering from drug usage. Charlie would lie down in a fetal position through most of the workshop and could not respond to the world around him. A few days later, the Naval Hospital called and said that Charlie was in the hospital recovering from a drug overdose, and that he had asked for Brad to come get him and to take him home. Brad wasn’t sure what to do, but he went to the hospital, brought Charlie back to his home, all 85 pounds of him, and put him on the couch in the family room. Brad didn’t know exactly how to care for him, but Carol did, since she had been trained as a nurse, and they spent several months trying to help Charlie get his life back. It didn’t happen.Brad remarked:
“Finally there came a time when I could stand it no longer, so I sent Charlie back to his unit saying he had to do something about himself. Shape up or Ship out. He went back to the Credo unit to be cared for by them, yet we wound up doing a lot of work together.”
Brad and Charlie continued to work together at the Credo for the next three years. As Brad describes it,
“I led a double life for those three years—during the days flying and engineering with the Navy; nights and weekends I was drawn inexorably into the life of Charlie and Credo. Eventually, I entered the world of my own wilderness journey, on a search for myself and my God.”
“After about three years of this heavy involvement with Credo, the church, and mostly with myself, I got scared. Something was happening to me which I didn’t understand and wasn’t in my expectations. So I called my Navy Detailer and said, ‘Get me out of here. I need a new assignment.’ Well, he did just that. I wound up with orders to report to Navy Headquarters in Washington, D.C., to help develop a new fighter plane, the F-18. I was going back into the Navy I knew best…I might add that by now Charlie was beginning to do quite well and had even enrolled part-time at San Diego State College.”
In 1974, Carol, daughter Susan and Brad moved to Washington, D.C. He’d been assigned to the Pentagon as Aeronautical Engineering Assignment Officer. He was on track, it appeared, to work his way up to Admiral. But, after a surprise visit from Charlie at his Virginia home, he realized that he was not about to shake off Charlie or his Wilderness Journey or his search for God or himself by simply moving across the country.
“The next three years were three years of great joy, deep struggle and decisions. I became quite involved in the ministry of our church (Immanuel, Alexandria), I took evening courses at the seminary in Alexandria and eventually explored with a career counselor the possibilities of leaving the Navy, which I loved so dearly, and beginning a new career in ministry.”
Brad made the decision to leave the Navy, but it was not an easy one. He had been selected for promotion to Captain, but had turned it down because his conscience told him that he could not accept the promotion if he was planning to leave the Navy. Because of his exceptional credentials, experience and intellect, he was also contacted by NASA and asked if he would consider going to work for that agency after his retirement. But his heart was leading him to a greater calling, and so on July 1, 1977 he retired from the Navy, after being awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second award of the Meritorious Service Medal. Then, he and Carol and Susan packed their belongings and headed off across the country to enter their new life in seminary at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP) at Berkeley, California.
Before he left Alexandria, Brad got a form letter from the Claremont Graduate School and Seminary in California, which was asking for a recommendation for a young man, named Charlie. His initial response was, “You’ve got to be kidding!” It was some time later that Brad realized what Charlie’s presence in his life had meant. He described it this way:
“I learned that somehow or other we are all in this life together; and though it took five years, it finally dawned on me that my own healing and wholeness, and indeed my salvation, had a lot to do with Charlie’s healing and wholeness and his salvation. What I ultimately discovered, of course, is that I didn’t save Charlie – he saved me. As Charlie grew up, so did I. As Charlie found new life and God, so did I. It’s as simple as that.” Brad graduated from CDSP with a Master of Divinity Degree in 1980. For the next year he served as Deacon at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Palo Alto, California, and on June 1, 1981 he was ordained into the priesthood and became an Episcopal Priest. He remained at St. Mark’s as Associate Rector until 1984 when he became the Rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Palm Desert, California. CDSP awarded him an Honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree in 1992. He served as Rector of St. Margaret’s until he succumbed to prostate cancer on July 16, 1997. His ashes were scattered at St. Margaret’s.
Yes, Gordon Bradford Hall, Jr., was a remarkable man, an officer and a gentleman in the finest sense, a friend, and much more than that. It has been more than 40 years since many of us served with him in VP-21, and yet his strength of character, basic honesty, and leadership qualities have had a lasting effect on many of us to this day. One of the people he affected most was not in VP-21, but he was a former sailor named Charles Bamforth, who wrote these words in an ordination paper in July of 1981:
“It was not too long ago, ten years to be precise, that I nearly died because I had no reason to live. I was lost, confused, despairing. I turned to drugs and alcohol to ease my pangs of guilt and anesthetize my pain. I was lonely, isolated, dying. I lacked faith in God and felt I was a worthless creature. More importantly, I lacked faith in myself. A caring Christian reached out to me and showed me the meaning of love. He emulated Christ in such a way that I was healed through him. He never stopped caring for me, even though I purposely did things to make it difficult for him to care. His name was ‘Brad.’”
Gerald N. Punches, shipmate and friend
Port Orchard, Wash., August, 2004”