Letter dated 16 January 2006
Both Dale and I just cried and cried for a long time after reading the e-mail that we received about Brad having had a heart attack and not survived. We were so truly stunned, and so very deeply saddened. It is hard to even begin to comprehend what a vast loss this is for you and family members, for everyone who knew Brad personally, and for all of the “World” of Thoreau, 19th century, natural history, and Native American scholarship. The list of his accomplishments and vast knowledge was immense.
On a personal level, Brad was the warmest, most kind, and unbelievably generous person. He was always so eager to help Dale and so many others in their research activities, and always a very genuine friend.
Brad was to be a key speaker in our plans for a 2007 Minnesota Thoreau event, and he was looking forward to participating when we spoke with him at the Thoreau Society Annual Gathering.
We simply don’t know how to even begin to adequately express the depth of our feelings, and our sympathy for you and your family.
May the memories of the love that you shared, and of your happiest times together bring peace and comfort to you and your family.
Dale & Kay Schwie
Email dated 16 January 2006
I had Jayne Gordon’s letter just now with news of Brad having left us. I am at a loss for words. Brad has been my mentor and support for so many years, we traded mails just a couple of days ago. Discussing Carew, musing on your coming to visit us in Sweden. There are so many things I’d like to say. But now there are no words.
From an email dated 16 January 2006
I called home and heard the wretched news on my answering machine. I am so damn sad. I’m talking to people and holding back tears, not successfully. Brad was, is, so important to me. He was a mentor, a friend, a buddy, a big brother, and just one of my all time favorite people on earth to hang out with. I was about to write to him to ask when the heck he was coming to visit again. I counted on his visits to add a modicum of sanity to my New York life. Now I have his smiling ghost sitting in my living room, swirling a glass of red, pouring over his latest library finds.
Brad keeps informing how I write—I hear his lessons, his voice. I tell his tales because they are so much more fun than my own: I imagine him as a high school sport trying out for the baseball team and then walking away in disgust; him putting away the MPs who tried to shave his head. I recall camping with him as a moose came right up to our tent. I, oh, damn, I remember too much and not enough. He was like a good brother to me, I love him, and I miss him something very powerful. . . .
From a letter dated 16 January 2006
News of Brad’s sudden death is so unreal that I don’t know how to quite express myself. He was a good friend and an indispensable colleague. The Thoreau community will never find another like him. He was the “real thing”—a man of intense commitment to what he believed to be good and true.
When Jayne Gordon called, all I could think of—knowing Brad’s involvement in monumental projects like the natural-history essays and the Indian notebooks—were Emerson’s words about Thoreau—“The scale on which his studies proceeded was so large as to require longevity, and we were the less prepared for his sudden disappearance.” These were words that Brad thought an excellent characterization of Thoreau and his great projects, too. . . .
[K]now that you and your son are in our thoughts and prayers.
Email to the Thoreau Society dated 17 January 2006
I loved every effort made and every word written by your husband. His work will long be remembered and loved.
Email dated 17 January 2006
I knew Bradley for a fair number of years, but only spent brief moments with him on the occasion of various Thoreau related meetings.
I remember many of these conversations, testifying to the intensity of his spirit and his amazing devotion to his work.
His death is a terrible shock. I grieve for him and for you. My father’s death at 59 (also of a heart attack) brings memories of the unfathomable grief and sudden deep loneliness.
His books and his drive to create them testify to the kind of man he was.
My deepest sympathies go out to you and all the family.
Despite my few encounters, I will miss him very much.
Email dated 17 January 2006
I am compelled to write to you to let you know you are in my thoughts, even though we don’t know each other. I have all of the books that Mr. Dean edited and have given numerous copies to my very dear friends over the years.
I am comforted to know that Mr. Dean is now with the man who so inspired his life. I truly believe that and look forward to that day for myself.
I’m certain you are surrounded by many, many thoughts, prayers and support from others who feel as I do.
From an email to the Thoreau Society dated 18 January 2006
. . . I was in graduate school at Eastern Washington University from 1982-1984 where Brad and I shared an office. We had many laughs and long conversations there as well as at his apartment with Debra and [their son] David. One of my favorite memories is of the very long car trip that Brad and Debra and I made from Washington State to the east coast. I remember being unable to sleep because of the beautiful changing topography of Idaho and Wyoming which was unlike anything I had seen. They dropped me off in Arkansas, where I am from, and went on to the east coast, where Brad was going to inspect some original Thoreau documents. Brad was one of those people who knew what he wanted to do from the beginning. . . .
Email dated 18 January 2006
I am totally stunned by the news of Brad’s death. He was a complete original, irreplaceable as a friend and a scholar. I will truly miss him, and it will take a long time for me to realize that there will be no more lively e-mail debates with him about Thoreau, no more beers with him at the Colonial inn. The irony that he, like Thoreau, died much too young with a “broken task” is almost too much to accept.
Email dated 17 January 2006
I felt so tongue-tied on the phone with you yesterday, so inarticulate with grief, that I wanted to let you know once again, in the wake of a long and restless night, just how sorry I am about Brad’s passing. In this sentiment I know that I speak for a great many of his friends and admirers, some of whom have shared their grief with me in conversation and correspondence over the past hours.
Brad’s work was so vital and central to the Thoreau-studies community that it’s impossible to conceive of his passing as anything other than a profound loss for all of us. I don’t believe that any single person, however dedicated he or she may be to illuminating the details of Thoreau’s later life or his uncollected, unpublished writings, is likely to fill the void that Brad’s passing will now create. Brad’s tenacity and dedication to his subject were an inspiration to me personally, and in this respect I am certain that I stand in good company. From conversations that I had with him over the past year I know that Brad had a backlog of scholarly work, and I hope that as many of these writings as possible may find their way to wider circulation in the future, so that the field of Thoreau studies may continue to benefit from his unique contributions. We already owe him an enormous debt.
I consider myself fortunate to have gotten to know Brad personally since the annual gathering in 2004, and I will sincerely miss the frank and refreshing phone conversations he and I had come to have with some regularity over the past year. He had a way of making me feel entirely at ease, and one result of these frequent chats was that he became in a rather brief space of time more than a scholar whose work I admired and appreciated (though this he always remained)—he became a person whose friendship mattered to me very much.
I can imagine that these thoughts and reflections are at best a small consolation to you now. Still, for what it’s worth, I wanted to let you know just how much Brad meant—and how much his memory will continue to mean—to me personally. And I am sure that I am only one of a very large number who feel overwhelmed by the news of his untimely passing.
Please know that our hearts and thoughts are with you in sympathy at this very difficult time, and please accept my sincere condolences.
From an email dated 18 January 2006
I was so distressed to hear of Brad’s passing. I considered Brad a good friend and a fine editor for the Bulletin. I enjoyed corresponding with him and meeting him on several occasions. . . .
I am really too stunned to say anything, except that I am thinking of you and that your loss is also our loss. Brad was a good man and I will miss him.
From an email to the Thoreau Society dated 18 January 2006
Thank you for letting me know of the heart-breaking news of sudden loss of my friend; Brad. I am in my deepest grief and am petrified in accepting the fact. . . .
From an email dated 19 January 2006
I confess myself to be in a state of paralysis still. Brad was for me in so many ways an incarnation of strength, of persistence in oppositional times and equal steadfastness in cruising mode. . . .
There is much I would like to say, but must return when in better poise. You must also allow yourself the time and space for reflection, reminiscence and the inevitable labors of grief work. This amongst the joy and gratitude of realizing the value of spending a life together, sharing so much. I hope and trust you will be able to stay close to your family and friends, in close touch inasfar as you would wish it. We Europeans of course often forget that America is a continent in its own right, and that for many being spread over the country is to be as it were spread between Sweden, Italy, Romania, and Iceland. Nevertheless I hope and trust you will find strength in your family in this most trying of times.
For some reason I have not been able to relate to Thoreau at all these past few days. Perhaps because he and his work come too close to Brad. Over the past six years, I have probably traded more and longer mails with Brad than anyone else. The logbook is regular. We were discussing Carew’s verses only last week.
I recall instead Gilgamesh upon his loss of Enkidu, his friend-cum-brother, the man of the wild who also became a trusted friend, teacher and brother-in-arms. In Book X of the epic, Gilgamesh ruminates upon Enkidu’s death. To me, the verses 318-20 in the portions that remain of our oldest known literary work say it like no other.
The dragonflies dart quickly over the river.
Email dated 20 January 2006
I didn’t know [Brad] really, other than by his work and his intellect. I first became aware of him when he appeared on c-span in 2001. He impressed me. He impressed me so much, in fact, that I e-mailed him right after the show to tell him how much I enjoyed listening to him speak. He was the inspiration for me joining The Thoreau Society and for furthering my studies about both Thoreau and Emerson. For that, I can’t possibly thank him enough. It is with a full heart that I extend my sympathies at your loss. I imagine he is holding some deep conversations with both his mentors right now.
Email dated 19 January 2006
I am writing to express my deepest condolences on the passing of Mr. Dean. My favorite author is Thoreau, and Mr. Dean’s recent books have made some of Thoreau’s writings so accessible to so many of us who are not scholars. I have an autographed copy of Wild Fruits which I will treasure.
Letter dated 20 January 2006 with further comments emailed 5 March 2006:
I was so sorry to hear of your loss—and the Thoreau Society’s loss. Brad did so much for Thoreau scholarship. He will be long remembered.
My first memory of Brad is on a ride to the airport with Walt and Brad when Brad was explaining the World Wide Web to us. We had never heard of it. It makes me realize that Brad brought the Thoreau Society into the 20th century. That was back in the 1990s. Brad was such a careful researcher and did such a good job of editing both his writings and the Bulletin. The Thoreau Society has much to thank Brad for.
From a letter dated 20 January 2006
I was stunned and deeply saddened to hear of Brad’s sudden death. I will dearly miss his vigorous curmudgeonly presence, his deep knowledge, and devotion—that’s what it was—to Thoreau scholarship, as will many Thoreauvians worldwide. Brad did more for Thoreau and Thoreau scholarship in his 50+ years than anyone has. And what he accomplished would’ve, will have lived far beyond him in any case. I don’t doubt that now he’ll be trying to convince Henry and his friends to have a few beers—if anyone could prevail, it’s Brad.
I’m grateful that I had that opportunity at the A[nnual] G[athering] this past summer and also finally to meet you. Beyond his scholarship and example I’ll miss Brad’s kind heart and friendship. Brad’s was one of the few forthright and long-lasting responses to my son’s death six years ago, true to himself as usual. And I won’t forget it, or him. . . .
From a letter dated 21 January 2006
I can’t remember if I ever told you about the time [Brad] and Ron and I got caught in a storm coming in from the Gulf Stream. Sky black, lightning flashing all around us, seven foot seas, Brad was fearless. Ron was in the cuddy cabin . . . [a]nd I had all I could do to read the compass (I had to take down the antenna and shut off the electronics) and keep us on course. Brad pulls a pair of heavy leather welder’s gloves out of his bag and says, “Hey, you want to wear these?” The wheel is metal and I was very happy to pull on those gloves. Brad, meanwhile, was standing in the open cockpit getting soaked, laughing. “Isn’t this great?” he said. I’ve always wondered why he had those gloves in his bag. And I’ve always wondered about his reaction to the storm, whether or not he really did think it was a great experience. You would know better than I, but I think he probably did enjoy it. I’ll bet there wasn’t much that he was afraid of.
Email to the Thoreau Society dated 23 January 2006
This is Brett Davidson, writing from Switzerland. I did not know Mr. Dean, but I’m sad just the same. Thank you for sending this information to us. I last visited Walden Pond in April 2004, and took many photos. I will look at those pictures tonight here in cold Zurich and think warmly of Mr. Dean.
From an email dated 23 January 2006
Bob [Galvin] mentioned the striking applicability of Emerson’s words about Thoreau (the “injury-indignity” final passage from his eulogy, as I have come to know it) to Brad’s case. Re-reading the American Scholar lecture by Emerson, I have to say the analogy still rings true to me, too: “the scholar loses no hour which the man lives,” wrote Emerson. And I am specially reminded of Brad
. . . Brad was a “helpful giant” to me, and I feel to be in perpetual debt to him.
Antonio Casado da Rocha
From a letter postmarked 25 January 2006
Brad was my truly esteemed colleague and, more importantly at a time like this, one of the very best friends I’ve ever made. His mark on Thoreau studies will endure as long as Thoreau is studied, and his imprint on me will last a lifetime. Brad was a force of nature and a large presence. Only the powerful memories he has left can begin to fill the place he so vitally occupied. . . .
From a letter postmarked 25 January 2006
There are no words with which to express my sorrow at the loss you—and the wider community of Thoreauvians—are feeling at the loss of one so talented and dear as Brad. But what a richer world we all benefit from, from his having given so much—and so fully—during his life. It was a privilege to be counted among his friends.
From a letter postmarked 27 January 2006
The shock of losing Brad is still renewed for me every day as I reach for one of his books or think of some little item to share with him or hear his voice in my head. Last night I heard his say, as he so often did, “Life is good.” I will never be reconciled to his death, but remembering Brad say those words made me feel a little, just a little, better. He lived a good life, the best, doing just what he loved, and he showed us that a Thoreauvian ideal can be made real even today when so much seems so hostile to freedom of spirit.
I miss him powerfully. I was lucky to have him as a friend, and no one else shared and inspired my passion for Thoreau and science. I still rage at the universe for taking him from us though I know the real gift is that he was given to us at all. . . .
Laura Dassow Walls
Email dated 27 January 2006
My name is Bernhard Kuhn and I have been a member of the Thoreau Society since 1991, one year after I arrived in the USA from Berlin, Germany. Thus I knew Brad from the gatherings of the TS and had originally had a good exchange with him shortly after Walter Harding made him his successor as Secretary. The following years, “Walden Woods years” for him, “Walden Forever Wild” years for me, we barely talked and hardly seemed to notice one another in Concord—although we both were present at most of the annual gatherings.
However, shortly before I moved from New York City to Wisconsin in 2004, Brad’s presentation of the important book Letters to a Spiritual Seeker was the last cultural event I went to in lower Manhattan and prior to his talk we had a very friendly and open conversation. I was actually surprised, how freely he spoke about himself, the TS, WWP and his experiences; it was as if we were two old friends who met after many years. In the light of his crossing of the threshold this seems even more remarkable to me now.
An untimely, sudden death is always especially hard to bear for those left behind and I wish you the strength to bravely continue on your path. His presence will be missed, yet he will be present in those who knew and remember him.
From a letter dated 29 January 2006
I met you and Bradley at the Thoreau Gathering this past summer. My girlfriend and I came up for the conference. We didn’t know anyone and we were planning to get around by foot and rail, but Bradley offered us a ride with you both to Ms. LaDuke’s lecture, and it was a beautiful gesture of pure kindness. I certainly haven’t forgotten it. He and I had several good conversations after that, and he was even kind enough to recommend a few graduate programs several weeks after the conference. In short, he was very kind to me when we were strangers, in addition to being a fine scholar. He will certainly be missed, even by his most casual acquaintances.