USAO News Bureau

ABLESON, Bradford E.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Captain Bradford Edward, Chaplain Corps, US Navy. The Rev. Dr. Bradford E. Ableson, an Episcopal priest and former Command Chaplain of the U. S. Strategic Command, died February 17th following a courageous battle with cancer. Father Ableson was born in January, 1959 in Tulsa and graduated from Mason High School in 1977. He received a B.A. from the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma in 1980, a master's degree in pastoral counseling from Boston University in 1982, the master of divinity from Yale Divinity School in 1985 and a doctor of ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary in 1999. At Yale he received the Mersick Prize for public speaking and at Columbia he was awarded the Sanders Prize for theological scholarship as well as the first-ever Telford Award for social justice.

In 2007 Yale instituted the Bradford E. Ableson Prize for Ecclesiastical Leadership to recognize the Divinity School graduate possessing the qualities of judgment and character for the future exercise of ecclesiastical leadership. In 2008 Brad was named a distinguished alumnus of Yale, receiving the prestigious Lux et Veritas award; he was also inducted into the University of Science & Arts Alumni Hall of Fame. In 1984 Brad was commissioned in the Navy's theological student program and served as a Naval reservist as a divinity student.

Following ordination in 1985 and two years of pastoral ministry in Tulsa, Okla., he was recalled to active duty in 1987. Chaplain Ableson served a distinguished 25-year naval career with extensive time in the fleet including ministry in surface ships, submarines, and aviation units. He provided combat ministry with Marines during the first Gulf War and subsequently served as a Group Chaplain in the Third Marine Aircraft Wing. In 1996 he assumed Presidential Service duties as the chaplain at Camp David, Maryland during the Clinton administration. Later, after serving as an executive to the Chief of Navy Chaplains, he attended the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island where he graduated with distinction. In 2002 he reported to aircraft carrier USS George Washington, on which he served as senior chaplain on two combat cruises during the Global War on Terror. In 2004 he was promoted to the rank of Navy captain and assumed responsibilities as Command Chaplain of the U.S. Strategic Command where he served as special advisor on matters of religion at the strategic level. While at the Strategic Command, Father Ableson was named Priest-in-Residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral-a position he held until his death. In 1986 Brad married Julia Ableson, his wife throughout every day of his active duty naval service and in 22 years of marriage. At the time of their wedding he was a widower, having been married to the former Gina Marie Benzel who died in January of 1983.

Brad was predeceased by his grandmother, Augusta Langford Davis; father, W.A. ""Buddy"" Ableson; and namesake uncle, Paul Edward Davis. He is survived by his wife, Julia; his mother, Juanise Ableson Stockdale; sisters: Ann Harper, Janie Ableson and Pam Johnson; nieces, Kasey Johnson Woods and Lee Harper Jones; nephews, Jonathan Edward Harper and Joseph Ableson Johnson; great-niece, Harper Anna Jones. Also surviving are his grandchildren, Julia Tevis Hillis and Robert Foster Hillis; and Polly Lee Hillis and William B.N. Lee. The family will receive friends Friday, 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the West Center Chapel. Memorial Service Saturday, 12:00 noon, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 113 N. 18 St., Omaha. Graveside Service Tuesday, February 24th, 9:00 a.m. at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa, OK. In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to The Bradford E. Ableson Scholarship Fund, c/o Yale Divinity School Development Office, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511. Arrangements by Heafey-Heafey-Hoffman-Dworak-Cutler, West Center Chapel, 7805 West Center Road, Omaha, NE 68124, 402-391-3900.