USAO Hall of Fame Recipient Brad Ableson Dies at 50
A visionary in religious reconciliation, an architect of the modern model for military chaplains and a chaplain to President Bill Clinton, U.S. Navy Captain Bradford Edward Ableson died Feb. 17 following a battle with cancer. He was a 1980 graduate of the University of Science and Arts and named to the USAO Alumni Hall of Fame last November.
He and his wife, Julia Tevis, made their home in Belle Vue, Neb. Graveside services were held Feb. 24 at Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa.
Ableson was born in January 1959 in Tulsa. He graduated magna cum laude from USAO, received 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.
In 2008, Ableson was named a distinguished alumnus of Yale, receiving the prestigious Lux et Veritas award. In 1984, Ableson was commissioned in the Navy's theological student program and served as a Naval reservist. Following ordination in 1985 and two years of pastoral ministry in Tulsa, he was recalled to active duty in 1987.
Ableson served a 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 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 the 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, Ableson was named priest-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral -- a position he held until his death.
In 1986 he 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, also a USAO alum, who died in January 1983.
He was predeceased in death 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.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to The Bradford E. Ableson Scholarship Fund; Yale Divinity School Development Office; 409 Prospect Street; New Haven, CT 06511.