One of Canada’s greatest chroniclers and preservers of our aviation history has died. Robert “Bob” W. Bradford, CM passed away in Toronto on 25 May, 2023. He was just shy of 100 years of age, having been born on 17 December 1923, twenty years to the day after the Wright Bothers’ flights at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.
Robert Bradford was a pivotal player in the long quest to provide a fitting home for the significant collection of material reflecting Canada’s aviation heritage. Thanks to his determination that the collection be housed in a facility that could safeguard it and share it, the first delta shaped building at Rockcliffe was funded, built, set up and opened in the 1980s. It largely removed the spectre of fire that had hovered for years over the priceless collection in its former wartime hangars. All Canadians are in his debt for having accomplished this. He retired from the Museum and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1989, a year after the new building opened.
In addition to his legacy as a museum builder, Robert was the dean of Canada’s aviation artists. His brilliant output over 60 years was prodigious and he practiced his skills right to the end. He created the art for series of stamps and undertook both private and important public commissions. Probably his best-known works are a series of paintings he did for the (then) National Aeronautical Collection depicting significant events in Canada’s aviation history. They were released as lithographs and sold in the thousands. Those originals of his masterpieces not donated to or bought by public museums or business corporations are highly prized by their appreciative owners and much sought after.
Robert was a gentleman in the finest sense and it was a great privilege to have known him and to have followed in his footsteps.
For a full biography of Robert W. Bradford, CM’s life and his significant contributions to Canada, please follow the link to his page on the web site for Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame into which he was inducted as a member in 1996: https://cahf.ca/robert-william-bradford/
Robert W. Bradford, CM (left) and the Museum’s Chief Pilot, McKee Trophy winner George Neal
with the Museum’s Hawker (Afghan) Hind, restored by Neal, at Rockcliffe on Canada Day, 1989.