Personality Profile: Mary Jane Bradford

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Mary Jane Bradford, or “Mom,” as some know her, has been married for 59 years. Since it was on Apr. 1, her husband, Roy “Pop” Bradford, kids “we don’t know who got the biggest foolin’.”

What sets Mary Bradford apart from all the other happy grandmothers in the quiet town of Neosho is who she calls her “kids.” These are people from all ages, sizes, cities, and countries. “Mom,” as she is known throughout the international community at Crowder, is a host parent for students from other countries.

They have a set of apartments near Crowder that they rent to students. They come fully furnished, because, as Bradford says “International kids fit their entire lives in suitcases, they don’t have places for silverware.”

Full disclosure, I lived in their home for a year, and I am now living in one of their apartments. Like most international students, I was from a big city. And like most international students, I came to the United States without really having connections. The Bradfords took me in. I still call them “Mom” and “Pop,” and we always visit when I come over to pay rent.

Mary Bradford looks like any other excited grandmother when talking about her kids. The only difference is where they come from. “In my home I have students from Paraguay, Brazil, one from Japan, two from Nigeria.” In addition, they have students from Argentina, Mexico, El Salvador, Brazil, Senegal, South Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and other African nations in their apartments.

The international fostering project began with one student from Nigeria long ago. The Bradfords had just lost their son, Mark, in 1980. From then, they have become an institution for students who are seeking shelter, help, or even a family, while they are away from home.

Being host parents, Bradford says, doesn’t feel any different than being a regular parent. Meeting international students is a lesson in sociopolitical geography.  “It’s better than even going to school and learning about these things, I learn about the people,” says Bradford.

Bradford, herself a non-traditional student, graduated Missouri Southern State University with a bachelor’s in Accounting and a minor in Computer Programming at the age of 43.