James Bradac, who touched the lives of many as a nature enthusiast, educator, coach, and friend, died on June 17 in San Jose. He was 41.
James, Jimmy, Jimbo or simply Jim to family and friends, was born on April 6, 1971 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Although a proud Steelers fan throughout his life, Bradac’s first love was always basketball. The son of a high school basketball coach, Bradac drew from his father’s knowledge and love of the game, a lifelong passion, which Bradac shared with those around him by serving as a high school coach himself.
Jeffrey Bale, who acted as Bradac’s assistant basketball coach, recalls Bradac as “a great coach...[with] profound respect for his dad.” Bradac’s father instilled in Bradac many of values in which he adhered to as a coach, and played a big role in shaping Bradac into the coach he was. “He always wanted to show you he cared,” Bale adds, “He always wanted to show you he appreciated.”
Aside from basketball, Bradac also possessed a love for music and the outdoors. Bradac was able to combine his musical and environmental passions through his work as a field instructor at Walden West Outdoor School. Earthworm Jim as he was known by students and colleagues, was always eager to bring music to students—the magic took place during camp bonfires.
Josh Maisel, a colleague who worked with Bradac at Walden West specifically recalls Bradac’s distinctive sense of humor. “He named himself, Earthworm Jim, after a video game character,” Josh says, “It really fits his wit and humor.” However, Maisel adds that, “Similar to how the earthworm is central to the health of an ecosystem, Jim, like the earthworm, played an important role in the camp.”
Bradac spent the last few years as a math teacher at Lynbrook High School in San Jose. In the short period of time Bradac spent Lynbrook, he captivated the heart of students all around campus. Adam Sciupac, a student who shared a passion for the guitar with Bradac, says “[He] was more than just a teacher; [he] was a loving, caring and understanding friend.” Sciupac recalls sitting in a circle jamming and taking turns improvising on the guitar with Bradac and others, “like it was yesterday”.
Similarly, Noopur Gosalia, a former student of Bradac’s, says he, “touched [her] heart more than any other teacher [she’s] ever known.”
While at Lynbrook, Bradac also served as a professional development leader as well as a member of the staff choir. Principal Gail Davidson says Bradac, “Saw into your eyes and saw you, the person. He played music with his guitar, but created music with his heart.”
James Bradac’s memorial service was held on June 26 at Westgate Church in San Jose. Situated in the center of the service hall stood a project image of Bradac smiling, in the sensitive, caring manner many recall him by. “The family feels overwhelmed,” begins the pastor, “overwhelmed in a good way, on the turnout and response.” “Overwhelmed by how members of the family and the community have come together, to celebrate Jim.”