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Brad Dunn taught many about life

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Ken Bell

Lancaster native Brad Dunn had three main loves in life – God, his family and the South Carolina Gamecocks. And on Sunday, before a standing-room only crowd at Lexington United Methodist Church, all of them were there to celebrate his life.
William Bradford Dunn was born on Feb. 25, 1977, and faced adversity every day of his life. An inoperable deformity left his face different from most other children. Other physical complications were operable, however, and through the years Brad became a familiar face at area and regional hospitals.
Children can be cruel and, during his early years, Brad endured the never-ending taunts and name-calling from children his own age.
But through the love and guidance of his parents, Bill and Debbie Cox Dunn; his “Nana,” Wynona Cox; and his aunt Julie Cox Seidel, Brad never let the bullying jade him. With that buffer of love from his family and close friends, Brad learned to love instead of hate. Through his family, Brad developed a keen wit and sense of humor. Whenever Brad was around, laughter would soon follow.
Despite undergoing numerous surgeries, he wasn’t bitter. Brad didn’t just accept his lot in life, he embraced it.   
Brad’s mother told the throng on Sunday that Brad didn’t complain or ask what day it was after he awoke following his numerous surgeries.
“He always had one question,” Debbie Dunn said, ”what time is it?”
She asked the congregation to stand and collectively ask Brad, “What time is it?” It had become Brad’s trademark.
Brad’s mother also told of his love of shooting “Nana hoops” with his grandmother.
“It didn’t matter who won,” she said, “there were always laughs.”   
After graduating from Lancaster High School, Brad enrolled at the University of South Carolina, where he excelled. Following college graduation, he decided to stay in Columbia and worked for a short time at Frankie’s Fun Park before embarking on a career with the S.C .Department of Natural Resources as an administrative specialist.
On Sunday, many of Brad’s friends wore Gamecock apparel to honor their friend. It seems Brad had become quite popular in college as the church on Sunday took on a definite garnet and black hue. The Rev. Ken Owens of Lexington United Methodist Church admitted to being somewhat intimidated.
“This is probably the most difficult funeral I’ve ever preached,” he said. “I’m a Georgia fan.”
His comments drew a round of laughter from the mass that packed the church.
Faces in the crowd on Sunday read like a who’s who from Lancaster: Former S.C. Gov. Jim Hodges; Peggy Little; Charlie and Margaret Bundy; Mr. and Mrs. Ernie Mathis; Karen Faile; Mr. and Mrs. Robert Howey and their daughter, Caroline; Mr. and Mrs. Mark Grier, Sis Bauknight and her daughter, Meg; former Lancaster resident Jan Porter Shillinglaw, and the list goes on. It seemed that every person there had an anecdote about Brad that usually ended with a laugh.
After college, Brad took on a roommate, Keith Robinson. And 13 years later, the pair still shared an apartment. Robinson said he began losing his hair while in his early 20s and Brad, who had a head full of thick wavy hair, asked if Keith could get some of his (Brad’s) hair implanted on his (Keith’s) head.
“Brad wouldn’t just give you the shirt off of his back, he’d also give you the hair on his head if he could,” Robinson said.
After leaving Lancaster, Brad found a church family to love – and they loved him back. Brad immersed himself in church activities serving as an usher, a greeter, a nursery worker and had recently been asked to be a member at large on the church council for 2014.
On Sunday, the Lancaster folks learned that Brad often drove to Lancaster on weekends to help with the family’s flower business only to drive back to Lexington in time for the 8:30 a.m. worship service on Sundays.
The Lancaster crowd also discovered just how much Brad’s Lexington church family loved him. From the pastor to others who had served with Brad on various boards, the common theme was that Brad always wanted to know how he could help.
On Thursday, Brad’s health complications overcame him and he died with his family by his side.
During his 36 years on earth, Brad touched many people.
And on Sunday, some of those people showed up to pay tribute to a young man who had every reason to complain and give up, but didn’t. Many came thinking they had taught Brad something to help him during his brief lifetime.
But as they left, most realized that it was Brad who did the teaching.

Former Lancaster resident Ken Bell is a military analyst at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.