In the city of Shoreline, Washington a man and his vintage blue Ford Maverick became inseparable in most people’s eyes. It was an association that took years to develop, as man and machine became entwined as a fixture on the streets and among the rows of parked cars that make up the seaside community.
The process was only natural, since the late Jack Bradley, affectionately referred to as the “Maverick Man,” lived in his car for approximately 20 years before dying unexpectedly on February 19 from a stroke.
He was only 58, at that time — just 20 older than the car who’s name the “Maverick Man” came to share.
To his day, Bradley’s car sits abandoned in the parking lot of the Schuck’s auto parts store. Parked in the same spot where it could usually be found, with him in it, for most of the past few years. The parking lot of the facility, which consists of a parts depot and a storefront, was much more than simply his chosen home. It was where he went to get the parts that were necessary to keep his car running, not simply for transportation, but to keep the heat turned on.
Records at the auto supply store show that the Maverick, was a non-descript 1970 model.
“I was the one that saw he was having a hard time,” said David Vellez, depot manager for the facility. “He was leaning up against his car and I asked him, ‘Jack, are you OK?’ Then, I ran inside and asked someone to call 9-1-1. They came and took him away.”
Bradley lingered for about a week in the hospital, before he finally passed away.
What happened next surprised many people who had passed by “Maverick Man” for years without giving him so much as a second glance.
What started with a single bouquet of flowers left on the hood of the car slowly emerged into a pilgrimage by local people, some who knew him better than others, and some who just knew him by sight.
Friends and residents have now turned this unique stranger’s home into a make-shift memorial leaving flowers on the car. Over time, a variety of colors and flowers – roses, carnations mostly – festooned the top and sides of the car. Others attached notes, addressed to “Maverick Man” in many cases, or simply “Jack” in others, telling him – telling the world, actually – what he’d meant to them.
Over a period of days, the blue Maverick became the focus of a public outpouring of both grief and good memories.
According to news reports, “Maverick Man,” as he has come to be known, graduated from Oak Harbor High (in Oak Harbor, WA) in the late 1960s. The web site www.pnwbands.com states that he played guitar in a rock band called A Boy and His Dog, circa 1967-’68. One of two vocalists in that band was Ann Wilson, who later became part of the internationally known band, Heart.
“I knew Jack pretty well,” Ann Wilson told Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper columnist Robert Jamieson recently. “Real easygoing and nice, with a Neil Young vibe – long, dark flowing hair.”
Reportedly, the pair dated briefly before the band broke up.
“He was never the heavy gray cloud in the scene. You always remember people like that,” added Wilson.
After playing in that band, Bradley became a draftsman at Boeing. Then, the massive layoffs that took place after Congress refused to fund a SST (Supersonic transport plane) at Boeing meant that Bradley became one of many who lost their jobs.
Exactly how he ended up living in his car isn’t known. It is a fact that seems to have been lost over the years and, according to those that knew him, now seems unimportant compared to the impact he had on those he encountered while living in his Maverick.
The Maverick wasn’t a non-runner, it was a “mobile home” in the purest sense. Bradley made certain of that. Locals oftentimes saw him working on his car; and later, would see him driving it up and down Aurora Avenue North – what U.S. Highway 99 is called as it passes through Shoreline – enjoying the fruits of his labor.
While he parked in the lots of several Shoreline businesses, during the day, in recent years, he became a fixture at Schuck’s. Dave Biggart, an assistant manager in the commercial accounts division, called him “our night watchman.”
Melanie Granfors, a spokeswoman for the Shoreline Fire Department, told Seattle Times that Bradley was not destitute and had confided in her that he received Social Security money — most likely delivered to a nearby pub. He also reportedly told her he could have gotten emergency housing; but that would have meant moving away from his stomping grounds in Shoreline — and from the car that had become his home, and, for many, his identity.
After his passing, it became widely known that indeed, Jack Bradley had both an ex-wife and a son, Jack Bradley III, age 39. The son said that both he and his mother had lost touch with the elder Bradley, who shied away from offers of help from his son.
Many people say that their companion animals keep them alive and motivated. In Jack Bradley’s case, it was a car, a blue 1970 Ford Maverick. In a way, it’s almost a love story. Call it “A Man and his Maverick,” if you will.
Footnote: There is no word, at this writing, of what will become of Jack Bradley’s Maverick. Schuck’s facilities manager (Shoreline location only) Dave Osborne had no comment and it is unknown as to whether or not Jack Bradley III will take possession of the car that house his father for the past two decades.