Frank Bradford did a lot to put the awfulness of combat behind him when he came home from World War II, founding a Freeport insurance agency and fighting fires with the local volunteer department, all while raising two children with his wife, Mary Ann.

In 1965, he even raced off to an ocean rescue mission when a plane with 84 people aboard plunged into the Atlantic off Jones Beach.

"He had one of the most fascinating lives, and had adventures many of us would have liked to have lived," his son, Frank Bradford Jr. of Freeport, recalled.

ExploreWorld War II timelineExploreNYers who died in World War IIPhotosLI veterans then and now

Bradford died of congestive heart failure July 31 at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, according to his son. Bradford was 91 and had lived in Freeport since 1950.

Like many men of his generation, Bradford went about his life giving little indication that memories of history's deadliest war still unsettled him, often in the form of vivid and horrifying nightmares.

"He definitely brought some of the war back with him," his son recalled. "He was pretty good about it, but it was later in life when it seemed to come back to haunt him, in his 70s and 80s in particular."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Bradford had been a member of a tank crew during the 1945 invasion of Okinawa when the tank sank in 15 feet of surf short of the beach, killing a friend.

But it was the memory of an encounter with an enemy soldier in a Philippine jungle the prior year that particularly haunted him, his son said. Bradford survived a shootout with the soldier, only to find himself surprised by dozens of the dead man's comrades, who chased him through the tropical forest, guns ablaze.

Frank Bradford of Freeport, in a 1944 image from the Philippines. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bradford Family

Decades later, the encounter continued to induce sweat-drenched nightmares.

@Newsday

He volunteered for the Army in 1942, and was honorably discharged in 1945, with the rank of private first class.

A Brooklyn native, he went to work in his father's Ozone Park bakery -- Pete's -- after the war, and used his GI Bill benefits to study business at New York University.

He opened an insurance agency in Freeport in 1957, eventually specializing in marine insurance. He also joined the Freeport Fire Department and was captain of Fire Hose 4 in the late 1950s and early '60s. He met Mary Ann Reilly on a blind date in 1956 and married her the next year.

A onetime commander of Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 13-7, he responded on the night of Feb. 8, 1965, when an Eastern Airlines propeller plane taking off from Kennedy Airport swerved to avoid colliding with a Boeing 707 and plunged into the waves.

Mary Ann and Frank Bradford of Freeport, in a 1950s image from Long Island. Photo Credit: Courtesy Bradford Family

Bradford sped into the dark aboard his 38-foot boat, hoping to rescue any survivors. But all 84 had perished.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

In addition to his son, Bradford is survived by a daughter, Heather McAleese of Seaford. His wife died two years ago.

Burial was at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.