Mary Bradford Kilgore expected her young daughters to help daily with housecleaning and also gave them a monthly task.
“My sister and I were in charge of dusting and keeping my mom’s bowling trophies clean,” her daughter Sharon Kilgore-Smith of Cottage Grove said. “She had around 300 trophies.”
Bradford Kilgore built her extensive trophy collection during a 23-year career in mostly the 1960s and 1970s as one of the top female bowlers in the nation.
She was a member of a team sponsored by Motown Records owner Berry Gordy. The highly successful team was perennially one of the top women’s teams in the country.
Bradford Kilgore won several individual state titles while the Motown team was winning numerous Michigan state titles.
She also teamed with each of her daughters to win mother-daughter tournaments.
In 1985, she was named a Star of Yesteryear by the Michigan State USBC (United States Bowling Congress).
In February 1990, the Detroit Free Press ran a story about the history of bowling in Detroit. Bradford Kilgore was listed as one of the all-time best bowlers in the city.
Bradford Kilgore, of Cottage Grove, died on April 6 of complications of COVID-19. She was 86.
Kilgore-Smith has fond memories of her mother’s bowling career.
“It was a great life,” Kilgore-Smith said.
Bradford Kilgore retired from bowling to care for her daughter Darlene, who had lupus and died in 1983 at 26.
“She always put her children and family first,” Kilgore-Smith said. “She ended her career to take care of her daughter.”
Bradford Kilgore was born to George Bradford and Fannie Lou Bradford on Aug. 14, 1933, in Alabama. The family moved to Detroit before her first birthday.
After graduating from Detroit’s Pershing High School in 1951, she worked as an accountant for the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and an electric company in Detroit.
“She was such a role model,” Kilgore-Smith said. “She was a dedicated mentor who made sure her children would be successful in life without her. I just retired from a successful career with 3M and I owe it to what I learned from her.”
Bradford Kilgore moved to Minnesota in 2015 to live with her daughter.
In addition to her daughter, she is survived by two grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A celebration of her life will be held in August.