Editor’s note: The BDN’s initial coverage of Lance Bradford’s death highlighted his recent criminal history and release from the Penobscot County Jail. This story aims to provide a fuller picture of his life and how he helped the Bangor-area recovery community.

A growing Bangor organization that offers housing for people recovering from addiction wouldn’t exist today if a man, who died in late May, hadn’t saved the founder’s life on one scorching early September day four years ago.

In 2018, Lance Bradford found Scott Pardy unconscious in his yard as he suffered from a heart attack. Bradford called 911 and Pardy was revived in the ambulance, then taken to the hospital where he had a stent inserted.

Five weeks later, Pardy closed on a Bangor home that would become the first location for Fresh Start Sober Living.

Lance Bradford, 35, died of accidental drowning on May 29, 2022. Credit: Courtesy of Sonya Burke

Today, Pardy is preparing to open Fresh Start’s 11th location in a former women’s boarding home on Ohio Street in Bangor, which he purchased on July 1. The new home brings Fresh Start Sober Living’s total housing capacity to 85 people.

As he works to secure more homes to address an insatiable demand for places where people in recovery can live and stay sober, Pardy said he’s considering naming a future home after Bradford, who died in late May of accidental drowning. Bradford’s body was found along the Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor on May 29. His death was not considered suspicious.

The details of how the 35-year-old had a lasting impact on Bangor’s recovery community paint a fuller picture of a life that previously was only known to the broader public through the limited window of his run-ins with law enforcement and tragic death.

Pardy was devastated to hear his close friend Bradford died after watching his long fight with substance use disorder.

“I’ve always had good feelings about Lance and thought he could get it someday, but he just wasn’t able to,” Pardy said. “He really wanted to recover. He just didn’t know how to get there.”

Pardy met Bradford in 2014 in the Penobscot County Jail, where Pardy used to hold recovery meetings prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He was one of the few that always came to the recovery meetings, and I got to know him over the years,” Pardy said. “He’d get out of jail and be forced to go back to where he came from, whether it was the streets, a bad relationship or a crack house, and then I’d see him back in jail again.”

In early September 2018, Pardy let Bradford stay in his home after he was released from jail so he had somewhere safe to go and stay sober.  

On Sept. 2, the two were outside behind Pardy’s Bangor home clearing brush with a chainsaw when Pardy started to feel weak. He handed the chainsaw to Bradford and headed inside to get a drink and lie down. He collapsed on the lawn while on his way there, he said.

“Fortunately for me, the chainsaw died, so Lance came up and found me on the lawn,” Pardy said. “He called 911 and the next thing I knew, they’re reviving me in the ambulance and asking me if I knew where I was.”

Pardy stayed in the hospital for a few days and had a stent put in. Five weeks later, on Oct. 9, Pardy closed on the first Fresh Start Sober Living location, an eight-bedroom home in Bangor.

“If it wasn’t for Lance, I’d be dead and Fresh Start would not exist today,” he said. “He was caring, kind, and really enjoyed helping others. He also had an infectious smile and a great laugh, and I think that’s what I’ll remember about him.”

Pardy founded Fresh Start Sober Living for the people like Bradford whom he watched “go through the revolving door” in and out of jail, he said. Each time they were released, they had no safe place to go and sooner or later would end up back in jail.

“It exploded from there,” he said. “I believe it makes a difference and it’s helping, at least in a teeny way.”

Bradford had enrolled in a welding program in Ellsworth before his last stint in jail and had become passionate about the trade, said Sonya Burke, Bradford’s older sister.

He wanted to leave the Bangor area after his April release from jail to become a certified welder and begin a career in welding and woodworking, breaking the cycle of addiction and incarceration, Burke said.

“He told me he was tired of that lifestyle of going in and out of jail,” Burke said. “There’s no structure, and it’s hard to get back on your feet when you re-enter society, and it’s a really easy slippery slope if you don’t make huge changes.”

Bradford, who was born in Portland and spent much of his childhood in southern Maine before moving to the Bangor area, was the youngest of eight children, Burke said. He was a sweet, active, social person who cherished time with his family. His nickname was Lancey.

“He was a goofball and always the life of the party,” she said. “His job was to make everyone laugh, and it’s what he loved to do. He never took himself too seriously.”

Every summer, their family would rent a camp in Maine and spend time together. Bradford loved to spend time around the campfire, roasting marshmallows and sharing stories, Burke said.

“I have two daughters and he loved his nieces very much,” she said. “He always tried to stay connected even though we lived far away. He was loved by a lot of people.”

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...