BY KAYLEE DUFF
(Photos courtesy of Jason Bradley-Krauss)
After losing an icon in the out-and-proud weatherman, the Columbus LGBTQ+ community strives to honor him by living honestly and loving openly.
If you’re from Columbus, there’s a good chance you know exactly who Chris Bradley was. You probably watched him deliver the weather on the news or saw him at any number of community events. You remember his infectious smile and genuine enjoyment for the things that he did. And you know that above all else, Chris loved his family, his faith and his city.
In early December last year, Chris lost his battle with cancer at 53 years-old. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in March 2017, and had been fighting bravely with his family by his side ever since. Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Chris moved to Columbus with his partner, Jason Bradley-Krauss, in 1998, after taking a position as a meteorologist with ABC FOX. The two were together for 23 years, first as partners and then as husbands, and adopted two children, Spencer and Maria.
Jason and Chris met in 1995 at the Steppin’ Out AIDS Walk Detroit, a walk, run, rollerblade event for AIDS in Michigan. Jason, who worked for a large advertising agency at the time, was in the rollerblade registration line when he spotted Chris. “The earth moved under my feet,” Jason said. “I saw him, panicked and slipped.” A mutual friend made an introduction a couple weeks later, and the rest is history.
Chris was working as the weekend meteorologist in Detroit when he saw an open position as a meteorologist in Columbus. Jason encouraged him to interview, and the interview went well — leading Chris and Jason to a new life in Ohio’s capital city. “Moving to Columbus was really not on my radar,” Jason explained. “It was a bit of a surprise and some adjustment. Chris took the main job at ABC FOX, and I used the opportunity to start my own business.”
Jason and Chris built a beautiful and open life in Columbus, and came to mean a lot to both the city and the LGBTQ+ community here. “When we lived in Detroit, we were far less open about our true, authentic selves,” said Jason. “When we moved to Columbus, we were greeted by neighbors in German Village who were very out and open. It was a refreshing change.”
Neither Chris nor Jason made their sexuality a secret at their respective jobs. It was even through their business engagements that they began expressing themselves and their commitment to each other. Eventually, throughout time, the couple became an icon for Columbus’s LGBTQ+ community; here were two men, deeply in love, in the public eye. They made no excuses and lived the life that they cherished and deserved — with absolute openness and honesty.
Much of Chris’s popularity came from his excellence as a weatherman. It is no secret that Chris loved the weather and sincerely loved his job as a meteorologist. In 2005, Chris changed channels and became the Chief Meteorologist with WBNS-10TV. He really was the face and heart of weather in Columbus. “While Chris was a working meteorologist, he adored his fanbase. He was so passionate about serving that information to the Columbus market that he was giddy,” Jason recalled. “His genuine love of weather, his passion for delivering the weather a smile and enthusiasm — and also let’s face it, he was kind of a weather geek — people really responded to that.”
Knowing Chris was also knowing Chris’s faith. Both Chris and Jason were raised in the church, but initially struggled with feeling accepted while living in Detroit. “We would sit in the back row, and we always joked that if someone ever came over and said hello to us, we would not go back to that church,” Jason joked. “Because we were so afraid that if they really knew who we really were and what we were really about, we were going to have issues.” After moving to Columbus and searching for a church, they found King Avenue United Methodist Church.
Now known as a welcoming, accepting and affirming church for the LGBTQ+ community, finding King Avenue United Methodist changed Jason’s and Chris’s lives for the better. “During those early days at King Avenue, we both wept at the unconditional love and acceptance that we found there — coming even from the pulpit, which was such a breath of fresh air,” Jason remembered. “It was nothing shy of transformative to hear that message, that God loves us, that we’re all children of God.”
Chris and Jason were both active with the church, giving back in any way they could. They served, in some way, on most of the church’s committees and boards. “Chris taught Sunday school. He also taught the youth choir, even though he wasn’t terribly musically inclined,” said Jason. Community and faith were two of the most important things for the couple, and having that loving support system were crucial during their lives and throughout Chris’s illness.
In fact, Grayson Atha, former senior pastor of King Avenue United Methodist Church, is one of two people who helped nudge Chris and Jason towards adopting. Although the two had discussed wanting children as early as their third date together, Jason explained that it “wasn’t until [they] felt spiritually whole that the idea of becoming fathers really took root.”
The other person was Governor Taft. According to Jason, “The evening Governor Taft signed the bill that said marriage was between one man and one woman, Chris and I went to dinner. At dinner, I looked at him and said, ‘If we’re going to wait until society says we can and should move forward with adoption, we’ll miss our window.’ We looked at each other that night, we toasted, and we said we’re going to do it.”
And they did. After months of pursuing adoptions, they eventually ended up finding a beautiful baby boy — Spencer — who was available for adoption in Guatemala. They also adopted their daughter, Maria, from Guatemala. “The idea of adoption felt very natural to us,” Jason explained, as Chris was also adopted as a child.
Being a gay couple and adoptive parents in the time they lived in is nothing short of an inspiration, groundbreaking story. A stable, loving, happy family with two dads? Unheard of at the time. “We didn’t know another male couple who had done it,” said Jason. “We didn’t have anyone we could turn to to ask advice.” Now, adoptive children with two dads or two moms is less of a novelty and more commonplace — and the LGBTQ+ community has, in part, Jason and Chris to thank for that.
Throughout his time serving Columbus, Chris Bradley became an icon of hope and optimism for the LGBTQ+ community. Early on, he was asked to host the AIDS Walk Columbus, and continued to host and emcee events for LGBTQ+ causes and a number of other social causes over the years.
By being out and proud, Chris and Jason (and their family) filled a void for much-needed representation. The couple were proof that two men in a loving, committed relationship could start a family. They’re an example, a light in the darkness, a resilient couple from a pre-marriage equality Columbus that toughed it out and showed a young queer community that it was possible to survive. By sharing his struggles about growing up gay and coming out, Chris showed that it really does and will get better. Jason said that “First and foremost, Chris lived his life openly and honestly. He made no bones about who he was or the fact that he wanted to be a married man with a family life.” For that, the Columbus queer community will always love and respect him.
Just as Columbus came to love Chris and Jason, so the couple too came to love Columbus. “It’s an amazing place to raise a family. It’s an amazing place to live,” Jason admitted. “It became a place we had no desire to leave.” Even though many meteorologists tend to move around every few years, relocating with the job, the Bradley-Krauss family stayed in central Ohio.
Jason continued: “We’ve seen the city change and grow and become better every day. The people who are here in Columbus are proud and happy to be here. That enthusiasm, that pulse and that energy is something that makes Columbus very special.” Columbus is very special indeed. With a large, vibrant and diverse LGBTQ+ community here, it’s becoming a mecca, a place where people come to broaden their horizons and put down roots. A community that, again, has much to thank Chris and Jason for.
That love and respect held firm and true to the day that Chris passed away and beyond. “In his illness, the Columbus community has been such a blessing to our family. There’s been so much love reflected back to us,” Jason shared. “We’ve received countless numbers of cards, well wishes, cassaroles, gestures of kindness to our family. Chris was truly humbled by the outpouring of love, and truly blessed by it.”
What can Columbus to do keep Chris Bradley’s legacy alive and well? When I asked Jason this question, he smiled, and said this: “Chris truly believed that that which we have in common is greater than that which separates us. I think that if people want to honor Chris’s memory, they should look for opportunities to find common ground.” So here’s to the man who showed us what it was like to love so openly and widely, and live with so much optimism, faith and joy.
You can donate today to the Chris Bradley Memorial Fund (via the Columbus Foundation), in support of cancer research and other local organizations and causes dear to Chris’s heart.
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