1922 - 2020
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October 20, 1922 -
July 19, 2020

After a long and fulfilling life, Winifred Ruth Bradford passed away peacefully at her home July 19, 2020.

She was born October 20, 1922 in Enid, Oklahoma to Walter and Alice (McNeely) Smith. She put herself through York College (graduating Summa Cum Laude) and medical school, becoming one of the first women to graduate from the University of Nebraska School of Medicine. She planned to become a medical missionary to China, so after graduation she went to Yale to study Chinese. There she met her future husband, Lester Bradford.

When China was closed to missionaries, she was redirected to Red Bird Mission in Kentucky and then Sierra Leone, all the time exchanging letters with Lester. He joined her in Rotifunk, Sierra Leone, where they married on December 23, 1952. During their 16 years of service in Sierra Leone, she delivered thousands of babies and treated thousands of children, and they had five children of their own.

On return to the US, she did a second residency at Earl K. Long Memorial Hospital in Baton Rouge. Lester's job brought them to Mount Vernon, where she got back into the baby business, performing home births and founding the Mount Vernon Birth Center. Her compassionate approach to birthing revolutionized the whole birth industry in Skagit County.

After she retired from the birth center, she joined Lester for further overseas assignments in South Sudan and Pakistan, continuing her medical work there.

She was an active volunteer all her life. She was a deacon for Mt. Vernon's First United Methodist Church (where she also sang in the choir and rang in the bell choir). She did respite care with Hospice for 18 years. Skagit Adult Day Care named the Bradford House after her in thanks for all her work. Every year, she helped people prepare taxes through the AARP. Most recently, her favorite project was Skagit County's Family Promise.

She is survived by four children; Dorcas Bouey (Chris), Julie Guyette (Harry), Ethan Bradford (Kelly), and Grace Skidmore (Ken O'Sage); 13 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; her sister Mary Williams; and many nieces, nephews, in-laws, and special friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 66 years, Lester, and her son Joel.

Donations in Winifred's memory may be made to the Sherbro Foundation ( to fund scholarships for nurses continuing Winnie's work in Sierra Leone.

Instructions for joining a virtual celebration of her life are available on

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Skagit Valley Herald from Jul. 27 to Aug. 2, 2020.
Memories & Condolences
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2 entries
July 31, 2020
Julie, Dorcas, Ethan and Melinda Grace,
I’m sorry about the passing of your amazing mom. The world is a better place because she was here.
I remember well her sparkling bright blue eyes and cheerful smile, her beautiful voice in song. She exuded a calm, warmth ,quiet strength, competence and intelligence.I loved going with Julie and holding babies in your mom’s Maternity Hospital. It was so special that she let me visit there.
I’m sorry that I missed hearing about your dad’s passing. (I’ve really lost touch with everyone!) What a remarkable man! So intelligent, always with a friendly smile. I remember when he got swept down the rapids at the Sewa River! I was terrified! He just looked so calm! Then he returned and taught you swim down the rapids! (Not me.I couldn’t swim!) You had a ball!
Your parents were so laid back and patient. I treasure memories of days spent with you at your farm in Manjama. Fishing at the pond, visiting those giant pigs! All was delightful. They let us climb around on top of your walls (no ceiling) and across the beam that went across your living room! It was a blast!
They were such selfless, giving people. What an extraordinary team they were; going about the world doing good.
I pray that your memories of life with your remarkable parents will comfort you. I wish you beauty, joy and peace.
I miss you Julie!
Jannet “Janny” Duffin
Jannet Duffin
July 30, 2020
As the property manager for Colonial Mobile Home Park, I was blessed having known Winifred and Lester Bradford not only as tenants, but as true loving friends. Winifred and Lester were always a welcoming presence at our annual community BBQ and they will both be missed very much, love you both R.I.P
Jesse Benavidez
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