Finding Grandpa Brad

For months my mom had been hinting at wanting to take a trip to Forest Lawn in Glendale to visit her father's grave. Over the years we have made infrequent trips, and she has fond memories of picnics on the lawn even as a small child, when her dad was alive, because other family members had also been laid to rest there.

I had been hedging just a little bit, because it's such a long drive for us, but when the opportunity and the time came available (my children were on summer vacation) we all made the trek and I am so grateful to her that we did.


First, if you have not been there, Forest Lawn is immense -- and lush. As you drive in you are greeted by a massive, Tudor Revival-style structure, a pond with sculptures in and around it, swaths of green open spaces, and trees that tower and merge above the winding asphalt roads.

My mom went in to double check she had the right key (yes, key -- more about that later). When she returned I started up the minivan again and we proceeded down the road, making our way through the cemetery past sections with fantastic names like "Wee Kirk O' the Heather" and "Little Church of the Flowers".

After driving around for a bit we finally came to the Court of David. Once we had parked and made our way into the Court, we thought it would be simple to go in and find Grandpa Brad's grave. How wrong we were. First, the courtyard itself is lush and invites reflection -- it's a square, with a large sculpture at one end and other sculptures scattered throughout, with benches and grass and trees.

All along the sides are enormous bronze (at least, I think they're bronze) doors, each leading to a separate "Garden of Memory". We had to find the right one, and then once inside had to scroll through the rows of graves trying to find his. My mom's recollection of where it was was pretty close, but still, when it's ten years between visits, it's difficult enough to remember how to find the section let alone which row.

But, as indicated by the very first photo on this post, we did eventually find it.

The flowers were plucked from a nearby bush and placed on his grave by his great-grandson, my youngest son, Bradley, of course named after him.

Once we were done here we left through the door came in from, but going out the inscription reads "Garden of the Mystery of Life." Mystery, indeed. One minute you're here, the next you're not. Or, sometimes, you linger for a few days before you pass, like Grandpa Brad. [If I'm getting the story straight, he was trimming a tree in the front yard of the home they were renting in Laguna Beach {clearly not getting my story straight! see below} (the new factory in San Juan Capistrano was under construction and they had plans to move, thus the temporary rental -- but what a temporary rental it was; one of these days I'll get some photos of that house, which was spectactular, with a steep stairway down to the beach below) when he began to feel strange. He didn't know he was having a heart attack and so did not go to the hospital and instead stayed in bed for several days before he finally passed. But who at his age would guess they were having a heart attack?] My Uncle Brad, Brad Keeler's firstborn, has corrected me: Brad Keeler and his wife, Catherine, were staying in a hotel in Los Angeles when he suffered the heart attack. Apparently he had an ongoing heart condition that required he mainatain a rice diet. I will have to learn more about this and will post more when I do.} He was only 39.

I am now a year older than he was at that time.

So, as I was saying, after reentering the Garden of the Mystery of Life we found our way to the mausoleum where the family crypt holds the others: Bradley B., Grandpa Brad's grandfather; Rufus B., his father and an acclaimed ceramacist and tilemaker himself (just google Adamson House and you'll be in for a treat); Mary B., his mother; and Byron R., one of his younger brothers. His brother Phil just recently passed away but is not interred here. His sister Jeanne (Jean) is still alive and well as of this writing.

After we left Forest Lawn (which is home to the resting places of some other names that might be familiar: Mary Pickford, a silent film actress who is buried in the same "garden" as Grandpa Brad, as well as Marilyn Monroe, and Michael Jackson) we found the house that Grandpa Brad had custom built and which my mother remembers best.

The lot is gated but we managed to get the caretaker's attention, who was chasing a deer off the property (see photo above), and he let us in to look around.

But I'll save that for another post!

Oh, and along the way we drove past the gas station that Grandpa Brad worked at as a young man, and where he (not so famously) lost an eye while working on a car. Did you know that? He had one glass eye. There's your Keeler trivia for the day. [CORRECTION: My aunt Sharon, wife to my uncle Brad Keeler, my grandfather's namesake, has written to me to inform me of a couple of corrections, one being that Brad Keeler never had a glass eye! I was sure that was the story my mom had told, so will now hopefully getting in touch with my uncle to clarify more so that I can be sure to get my history correct.]

More soon, and happy collecting!

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Reader Comments (5)

Thank you so much for your blog! I have been collecting your grandfathers lobster pieces for the last 20 years or so. It started with a small (two leaf) relish dish that my mother had when I was a child and has grown into a 20 piece collection that I display on the walls in my kitchen! I was just finishing up washing them all and getting ready to rehang them when I googled his name and found your blog. I know that I looked for some information when I first started collecting but only found brief history in California Pottery books. Thank you so much for the info-love the pics! Sally

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSally Grimmer

Hi! I just found your website, which is something I had no idea I would be doing this night... I've had two of your grandfather's ceramic pieces sitting on my bookshelf for about 12 years, and for some unknown reason, picked them up tonight to closely look at them. To make a long story short, I inherited these pieces from my grandmother after she passed away in 1999. She lived in the Chicago area (as did I), and I remember them as a "fixture" at her house since I was a child. I'm guessing she acquired them from her sister (my great aunt), who lived in Huntington Beach CA for most of the latter part of her life.
Up until tonight, I had no idea of the history of them, nor the story of your grandfather's life. The website shows these pieces (#713 and #714) as being "rare"... although the tip of the beak of each one of them has broken off. :(
I look forward to delving into your website more deeply. All the best to you!

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRandy

Dear Sally & Randy,
Thank you both for contacting me! I am always so thrilled to hear from collectors, and the myriad of ways my grandfather's pieces have found their way into people's homes. I would like to start an online archive of photographs of others' collections, so if either of you would be willing to send me a couple of photos (by email or snail mail, whichever is most preferable to you) I would be gladly credit the source! Every day I get inquiries, usually via email. I have been surprised at how little there is on the web for collectors about his life and work and hope to fill that gap. It gives me great pleasure to know that others enjoy his work as much as I do. My own first pieces were also passed down from a family member, long before I had any idea of their place in my family.
Cati Porter

April 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterCatherine Porter

Hi Cati - Thanks for your reply! I'll get some photos of these two pieces to you in the next week or two (even though I am a lousy photographer...). Thanks and take care!

May 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRandy

Hi Cati,
I just found out about Brad Keeler. We were going through my mother's things getting ready to move her to a senior living facility. I came upon a teapot, creamer and sugar. I remember it as a kid and always liked it. I went to put it up in my kitchen and noticed the name and number on the bottom. So, that's how i found you. The number is 784 X, looks like yellow tulips. Mom's memory is not the best, she's not sure how she got it. Thinks maybe a wedding gift. She was married in 1947. Can you tell me anything about it?

November 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPatti

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