on October 26, 2010 by alchemystic in American Upbeat, Rim Shot, keg party, Comments (0)

A Story About My Brother In Law George


By MICHAEL P. RELLAHAN, Staff Writer – Daily Local News

George Bratcher, who turned a youthful brush with the law into a long career of service to Chester County as a probation officer, athletic coach and counselor, died Monday. He was 70.
Bratcher had been admitted to Lankenau Hospital to undergo heart surgery earlier this month and had been expected to recover then suffered a heart attack about 2 a.m. Monday.
“George was a special guy who everyone loved,” said Patrick Carmody, the county’s first assistant district attorney, a longtime friend of Bratcher. “And if you think about all the lives that he influenced positively, it’s incredible. There were so many people who were beholden to George. He was an inspiration.”
A renowned local high school, collegiate and professional athlete, Bratcher served as a juvenile probation officer and case supervisor in the county for almost 40 years.
After his retirement, the department’s Juvenile Probation Officer of the Year award was named in his honor. He regularly attended the awards ceremonies held during Juvenile Justice Week in October, including the most recent ceremony on Oct. 6.
To those who knew him, Bratcher epitomized the characteristics that someone overseeing young offenders must have to be successful, bringing together the right amount of toughness and understanding, said Don Corry, deputy chief of juvenile probation, on Monday.
“You have to be both a social worker and a law enforcement officer in this job,” Corry said. “The best people are the ones who balance that in the right way. George helped turn around literally thousands of young lives.”
Bratcher is also known as the father of Brian Bratcher, a West Chester high school football player whose traumatic injury on the playing field gave rise to the annual Brian’s Run, a charity race benefiting the disabled.
Ironically, Bratcher became a probation officer because the former head of the county probation department, John Humanick, remembered him from an incident that landed Bratcher in trouble in the 1950s when Bratcher was 15.
During a fight between groups of youths on Market Street in West Chester, Bratcher had gone to check on the commotion. Police who responded arrested everyone there, and Bratcher was among those sent to the county’s Juvenile Detention Center for three days.
But Humanick, who was assigned to oversee Bratcher’s case, determined Bratcher had been an innocent bystander and eventually took a liking to him.
“The thing that usually got me was his smile,” Humanick said. “He was big … and he had that smile.”
Years later, after Bratcher had worked in youth programs at the West Chester Community Center and the West Chester Area School District, Humanick approached Bratcher about work in the juvenile probation department. Bratcher started in 1968 and retired in 2006 after 38 years.
After his stay in detention Bratcher remembered that his father “beat me all the way home,” but Bratcher said his own approach toward the youths he supervised was more respectful than harsh. If he was guided by any particular philosophy, he told an interviewer in 1993, it was “to treat people the way I want to be treated and, above all, to be honest.”
Ed Messikomer of Pennsbury, who played basketball alongside Bratcher on the West Chester High School team that won the Ches-Mont League title in 1957, said Bratcher’s background must have influenced his attitude toward those with whom he worked.
“Back in the 1950s, when George was growing up, African-Americans didn’t have the same sort of opportunities they do today,” Messikomer said Monday. “But he was a success. And working with kids all his life, maybe he said to himself, ‘I’m going to help kids who are going through a tough time, because it was tough for me, too.’”
When Bratcher retired in 2006, former Common Pleas Judge Paula Francisco Ott, who oversaw Juvenile Court at the time, praised Bratcher for his dedication, which she said she had witnessed ever since first meeting him in the mid-1970s.
“Even at his young age, he exemplified a strength and kindness that had a calming effect on youths and their families,” Ott said.
Born in West Chester on the Fourth of July, 1940, Bratcher graduated from West Chester High School in 1958, a year after winning the basketball title.
“George was the best athlete I’ve ever seen,” Messikomer said Monday. “He was strong, he was fast, and he had great hands.”
In addition to basketball, Bratcher played football with exceptional skill, starring at four positions at Delaware State College, from which he graduated in 1962.
After college, Bratcher pursued a career in professional football, signing with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League as an offensive lineman. He also played for the semipro Media Giants before suffering a knee injury.
Although he had initially tried a career as a school teacher in West Chester, he found the setting restrictive.
“I like to motivate,” he told an interviewer once. “I think I was really born a salesman. I like to convince people.”
Bratcher worked as physical education director at the community center and later as a counselor at Peirce and Stetson middle schools, where he was working when Humanick offered him a job in the juvenile probation department.
He also was a longtime Little All-American Football league coach and saw his two sons play the game, one with tragic consequences.
In 1978, during a preseason scrimmage at B. Reed Henderson High School, Bratcher’s son Brian was tackled and suffered a severe spinal cord injury, rendering him a quadriplegic. Confined to a wheelchair, Brian Bratcher became a symbol for those suffering life-changing injuries through the annual Brian’s Run, which aids West Chester University and area students with medical expenses.
Although he had suffered from diabetes for several years, the disease began to take its toll when he entered his 60s. He lost both feet and later both legs, but his condition turned for the better after a kidney transplant. His sister-in-law donated the organ that saved him.
A part-time shoe salesman, Bratcher joked when he got his artificial legs that he had been waiting expectantly for them so he could wear a pair of shoes he had already picked out.
As news of his death spread Monday through the Chester County Juvenile Center, many stopped to remember Bratcher’s good humor and calm effectiveness.
Greg Marshall, who serves as the county special master for Juvenile Court, said Bratcher had changed lives of teenagers and adults alike through the force of his personality.
“George made you want to be a better person,” Marshall said. “The manner in which he cared about others and the way he dealt with challenges and adversity made you realize that you weren’t doing enough with your time here on earth. I will miss him dearly but hope to carry forward the lessons he taught me.”
Funeral arrangements were not immediately unavailable.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan, send an e-mail to mrellahan@dailylocal.com.

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