Brad Prowse history column to continue after death
When Brad Prowse passed away earlier this month at the age of 78, our community said goodbye to the author of one its favorite columns published each month in The Union newspaper.
But because of Brad’s passion for history and this community, The Union will have the opportunity to publish original versions of his highly popular “100 years ago in Nevada County” for more than six years down the road.
You read that right. Prowse so enjoyed producing his monthly history column that he unearthed enough nuggets of news from the pages of The Union to fill more than 70 columns that have yet to be published.
“He just loved writing it,” said Brandy Fisher, Prowse’s daughter. “He just really enjoyed the process. And fortunately enough, he and I are not procrastinators. He always said that if anything happened to him, he had these ready.”
And make no mistake, Nevada County is ready to read them.
Last fall, a reader survey conducted by The Union showed Prowse’s “100 years ago in Nevada County” to be among the most popular columns published in the paper, with above 75 percent of the more than 600 readers surveyed stating they either regularly or occasionally read Prowse’s work.
“He would take a lot of pride in that,” said Matt Prowse, Brad’s son. “He loved writing and he loved history.
“And I just think he really loved the Grass Valley area. It’s where he lived. He never really could see himself anywhere else but that area, living in Grass Valley, Nevada City and enjoying the Northern California lifestyle.”
Brad A. Prowse was born in Hayward, Calif., on July 5, 1935, to parents Doris (Thies) Prowse and James C. Prowse. After graduating from Hayward Union High School in 1953, he worked as a letter carrier for three years, spent three-plus years serving in the Army (Korea/Japan) and 27 years as an electronic tech/manager at the Grass Valley Group. He received an associate’s degree in journalism from Sierra College and later an associate’s degree in management. In addition to his history column, he authored several novels and formerly wrote a home improvement column for The Union.
“I did all the illustrations for that,” Matt Prowse said.
“His relationship with The Union goes back quite a ways, though I don’t have the exact date.”
A digital search of The Union’s archives tracked down a “100 years ago” column by Prowse in January 1995, in addition to a few business stories published the year prior.
“I just know he was writing (100 years ago in Nevada County) when (John) Seelmeyer was the editor,” Fisher said.
“He really enjoyed writing so much. I remember when I was kid at Mount St. Mary’s (School), if I was sick he would write these long stories on some adventure I was (supposedly) on. So the nuns thought he was nuts.”
A photograph The Union published years ago, with Prowse on horseback outside the newspaper’s office, might seem a bit odd, but Fisher said it was nothing out of the ordinary for her father — who at one time competed in endurance rides — to ride into town from his home in the Greenhorn area.
“He used to ride all over town,” she said. “Everybody knew him. He probably did that up until the late ’90s. He used to take my kids on rides. In fact, I remember riding to pick up my class schedule at Nevada Union (High School) as a freshman.
“Up to about five years ago, he always talked about getting another horse.”
It was about six years ago, Fisher said, that her father was first diagnosed with Multiple Systems Atrophy, a rare neurological disorder that is associated with degeneration of nerve cells and impairs involuntary functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, bladder function and digestion.
“It’s similar in that way to Parkinson’s (disease),” Fisher said. “The silver lining was that many people who get this do so in their 50s, and he didn’t until his 70s. So we’re very thankful for those 20 years.”
Fisher said she and her brother plan to donate the proceeds from Prowse’s recent columns — and those still to be published — to fund a scholarship in their father’s name at Nevada Union, benefiting students who share his passion for writing and history.
“He retired early from Grass Valley Group and he really enjoyed writing this,” Matt said. “He was simple, at his heart. Even as an engineer at Grass Valley Group, he was so proud that he never paid more than $300 for a vehicle. He drove beater cars. Just about everything he did centered around that — being simple.”
In addition to his daughter and son, Prowse leaves behind five grandchildren — Nicholas Fisher, Christopher Fisher, Samantha Fisher, Sabrina Fisher and Haleigh Prowse — all of whom he was immensely proud.
And, his son said, his grandchildren are proud of his writing talent, a gift they and the Nevada County community will continue to enjoy through the words he has left for all to read.
“I have letters that he wrote to his parents while he was serving (in the Army),” Matt said. “My kids just love it, reading his stuff.”
They’re certainly not alone in that pleasure, something which we at The Union are pleased to be able to provide with Prowse’s yet-to-be published “100 years ago” pieces. The fact that he worked so far into the future on them is truly a gift that keeps on giving — and will continue to do so in Thursday’s edition of The Union — and is a testament to his love of writing, his curiosity about our local history and his absolute adoration for this community.
Brian Hamilton is editor at The Union. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 530-477-4249.
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