A father of four, Steven Bradley was himself a big kid.
He would take the cushions off the couch, drag a mattress and blankets into the living room and build a fort for his kids — and him — to play in.
He made water slides in the yard, or made a “kid train” with the kids holding onto each other’s feet while he, as the engine, would drag them through the house.
Kids in the neighborhood would even knock on the door and ask, “Can Steven come out and play?”
“He was always finding ways to make things more fun,” said Amanda Bradley, his wife of 13 years.
Steven Daniel Bradley died New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 2019, after suffering a seizure. He was 34.
Steven was perhaps best known as the guy who knew a lot about getting rid of pests, having worked at his family’s business, U-Kill-Em Pest Control, in Inverness since he was 15.
“He was going to WTI (Withlacoochie Technical Institute) for his senior year of high school and got out at noon, and he’d come here and stock shelves,” said his mom, Bonnie Bradley.
Over the years, he became his dad’s right arm, especially in later years when his dad, Dan Bradley, began having health problems.
“He knew everything about every plant, every chemical; people would come in and he’d know exactly what they needed,” Amanda said.
“He’d always write down on the container how to mix it,” said regular customer Dane Bargiel. “That doesn’t sound like much, but when you try to read the label with the tiny print, it saves you a lot of time.”
As a side job, Steven trapped gophers.
The irony: As a child, Steven’s nickname was “Tenderheart Bear,” named after one of the CareBears, because he couldn’t bear to see any creature hurt.
“If his sister stepped on a bug, he’d get upset,” Bonnie Bradley said. “One day, a baby bird fell out of a tree in our backyard and I told him we needed to put it back in the nest so its mommy could take care of it.
“Well, we had a cat, and Steven couldn’t sleep that night because he was so afraid that the cat would get in the tree and get the baby bird, or that its mother would never come back and get it. He loved animals. But he loved, loved, loved kids.”
Steven’s number one passion was his family.
He and Amanda met when they were teens and Amanda’s parents owned the former Westside Cafe in the plaza next to Times Square Plaza where U-Kill-Em is.
“He’d order food from us and I delivered it,” Amanda said.
At the time, Steven had a girlfriend and Amanda was also dating someone; however, several years later they met again at a restaurant in Homosassa where Amanda was working and they were both unattached.
“He was so much fun,” Amanda said, “and he loved being a dad.”
The couple have four kids: Talyn Manning, Sky, Blaze and Chase Bradley.
“We always played video games together,” Talyn, 13, said.
They all went roller skating at the Roller Barn together — and Steven would be out there on the floor too, skating and having fun with all the kids.
Steven Bradley was competitive, whether racing on roller skates or racing sprint race cars at race tracks around the state.
“He started racing when he was 9 or 10,” said Bonnie Bradley. “His dad would take him to the race track, and then they bought one and started fixing it up together.”
Steven started with a little go-kart, then moved up champ cars.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the bond he had with his dad,” Bonnie said. “They were tight as tight could be. They did everything together, working together, going to the race track together.”
They would be out behind the pest control shop working on a car, both mumbling but each able to know what the other was saying, even if no one else could.
Steven’s dad was getting ready to hand the business over to his son at the beginning of the year.
Now, Dan Bradley, who is no longer able to run the business himself, wants to sell it.
“It’s hard to be here, and it’s hard to think about selling the business,” Bonnie said. “This is where we had 19 years with him.”
Amanda Bradley said her husband was full of life, and everyone who knew him loved him.
“I used to get so mad at him,” she said. “I’d have to leave the store to pick the kids up from school and he’d say, ‘Wait a few minutes.’ He’d be talking to a customer and he didn’t want me to go until he walked me out to the car.
“I hated being late to pick the kids up,” she said, “but he always wanted to walk me to the car — just so he could say he loved me.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up for the family of Steven Bradley. To contribute, visit https://tinyurl.com/uzl3o86.