Joshua Bradbury wasn’t necessarily interested in the spotlight, but he shined when he found himself front and center. He was a Kauai High School athlete, an empathetic listener, an animal lover and an avid Lakers fan.
On Aug. 28, the 30-year-old Kekaha man died after jumping into an overflowing Waikomo Stream with his friend Noah Foote to save a dog. The stream was swollen with rains from Hurricane Lane, which was downgraded to a tropical storm when it drenched the island.
“He was my best buddy,” said Joshua’s father Rob Bradbury three days later. “He was an advocate for people and for those in need. The neatest thing about Josh was how he affected everybody. He had that smile. He was a special kid.”
Growing up, Joshua loved basketball and soccer. After graduating from high school, he spent a few years in Las Vegas, working at the Planet Hollywood Hotel with a handful of buddies and returned to Kauai in 2011.
“It was good to have him back,” Rob Bradbury said. “He had his own studio out in the old carport and helping take care of his grandmother who lives here. He was the prodigal son.”
For the next six or seven years, days were spent working with Noah Foote at his company, Superior Painting. Pau hana was shooting hoops at the basketball court near Foote’s house and watching Lakers games.
“We were inseparable for five years,” Foote said. “It’s just been me and Josh. He was a Kauai boy. He was my only employee and my best friend.”
Foote and Josh trained together daily after putting in long days painting; pushing each other to eat healthy and dedicate time to working out. While Josh was training his best friend in basketball, Foote trained Josh on a paint brush.
“That was something he wished he could have done — coaching,” Rob said. “It was all about training and getting better. He worked out constantly, on his own or with friends.”
Off the court, Foote, Rob and Josh watched every one of the Lakers games, all of which Rob would tape so they could break them down later.
“Both me and Josh, our favorite players (were) Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. We were just so excited to see LeBron play with the Lakers, it was something we couldn’t believe.” Foote said. “The best player in the world was going to play for the Lakers, our team, and it’s too bad he never got to see him play.”
That Tuesday, Foote and Josh were sitting outside of Foote’s house when they saw a white dog across Waikomo Stream. Foote snapped a photo of the dog after confirming with his wife that it wasn’t their seven-month old puppy, Oakley, and then it disappeared into the forest.
A few minutes later, the dog reappeared and Josh told his friend he would jump in and get it if the dog decided to try and cross the stream.
“Right as soon as he said that, the dog jumped in and started swimming toward us,” Foote said. “Josh jumped in right away and was in the middle of the stream. He grabbed the dog and pushed it toward me and I went in to catch it.”
Foote caught hold of the dog and took it over to his wife, who was standing on the bank nearby.
“He was in the middle of the stream and seemed in control, but when I ran back to find Josh I couldn’t find him,” Foote said. “There’s a culvert up stream and I got to that and I started yelling for him.”
After he couldn’t find his friend, Foote called 911 and the fire department took over the search. Foote bucked orders to go home and wait for news and went out to search for Josh himself and found him on the opposite side of the flooded stream.
“I was walking about a mile and it was treacherous — waist high water and rats, but I kept looking and yelling until I found Josh,” Foote said. “I’m glad I was the one that found him because I love that guy so much.”
Since the tragedy, Rob said people from different generations and parts of the island have reached out with stories of how Josh affected their lives.
“He was a beautiful man, my best buddy,” Rob said. “It’s really awesome to hear about how people were touched by him.”
Compassion and friendship were paramount to Joshua Bradbury, a legacy encapsulated by the stories of his family and friends who say he was always there to listen and to push people to be their best.
“I guess it comes down to everybody needs to hug everybody,” Rob said. “Spread the love.”
Jessica Else, staff reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or at firstname.lastname@example.org