Profile: Kathryn Bradbury’s award for volunteer work is nice – but it’s the other rewards that are special

We’ve all been there. Sitting there talking with grandma or our favorite great aunt or that wonderful smiling face you run into at Busch’s. We listen to their stories as those much older and wiser “ramble on” about their glory days – ah, “they’ll pass you by someday.”

But on this day with this wonderful woman at the Dexter Senior Center, friends wouldn’t allow their friend to “ramble on” to her guest for the morning. Whenever Kathryn Bradbury started talking about how she met her husband (wonderful story) or her kids (wonderful young men and women) or her duties at the Dexter Senior Center (wonderful work), she would be interrupted with a hug or a rub of the shoulder or a well-wish.

While the award tacked up on the bulletin board was vindication of her dedication to her job, it was the warmth and admiration and love of the people she works with and for that really matters. Awards are nice. Hugs are special.

Kathryn Bradbury, 87, was nearing the end of her shift last month at the Dexter Senior Center, one day before she was scheduled for major surgery. And one by one her friends and co-workers and extended family would stop by the table to wish her the best and give some support and encouragement and plenty of love.

Kathryn was recently awarded the DSC Volunteer of the Year. She also was awarded the 2019 Constant Contributor Volunteer Award at the Catholic Social Services Annual Awards dinner in August. She has logged more hours of service than any other senior program volunteer in Washtenaw County.

Like many volunteers, Kathryn doesn’t see her work at the DSC as a job.

“I get here at 9:30 every morning and work until around 1 or 1:30 four mornings a week,” she says. “I set up the cold foods and pack them in ice. After the food gets here I have to package some things and separate things and get them in bags. There is a list on the board of meals and milk that we follow. I also set the table depending on who else is working and then serve the food once everyone gets here.”

The food at the Dexter Senior Center comes from the schools (there is a cook at the school that prepares the meals for the DSC) and they feed anywhere from around 10 to 30 people – birthdays, naturally, bring in bigger crowds.

“It also depends on what we are serving how many people show up,” she says. “The meat loaf is really popular.”

And Kathryn also is very popular.

“I enjoy it very much,” she says. “I like to be with people my age and it’s just a great place to come to be with wonderful friends.”

Kathryn’s husband, Keith, passed away four years ago. They were married when she was just 19 years old and spent “64 terrific years” together. “I had just graduated from Pinckney and he graduated from Chelsea,” she said. “We met at a wedding in Chelsea. I was the flower girl and he was a groomsman.”

Soon they would be looking for their own flower girl and groomsman.

They raised three kids and have seven grandkids and 10 great grandkids.

Kathryn worked for more than 17 years at Hancock Fabrics in Ann Arbor. She also spent 29 years as a Sunday School Teacher at Dexter Methodist Church and before that at Chelsea Methodist Church.

And now, even at 87, she likes to keep busy. She does alterations out of her home for friends and family, does volunteer work for DCS and her church and even enjoys going to the exercise classes at DCS.

“I just enjoy coming here,” she says. “A lot of very nice people.”