A Forever “Friend of Terwilliger Plaza.”
An Interview with Brad Mersereau

The Terwilliger Times, March 2012

What does one have to do to become “a friend of Terwilliger Plaza?”

Brad Mersereau is always introduced here as such but still remains somewhat a mystery. Nevertheless, he has given generously of his time, talent, and resources.

He became aware of the Plaza when Alice Sedgwick, a beloved Council Crest neighbor, moved here in 1997. Brad had grown up taking lessons from Portland piano teacher Sylvia Killman and playing games with Alice’s son. When Brad’s parents died in the early 90’s he began playing duets with Alice. She was a charismatic woman who loved music, singing, and acting. When she moved to the Plaza, they continued their tradition of duets.

Brad has given very generously both personally and practically to Terwilliger Plaza. The elaborate electronic keyboard in the auditorium and the upright piano in the Terrace are gifts from Brad. You can hear him playing either instrument from time to time. He also plays Alice’s grand piano which now sits in the niche just outside our Dining Room, as well as Jeanne Pendergrass’s grand piano in the Plaza Café. He is the guy with the mustache.

But in the Alice-Brad tradition, nearly every Wednesday around noon he and Plaza resident Jerry Lindgren play in the auditorium for their own amusement and learning. Brad always finds playing with someone a learning experience. The two men welcome visitors who haven’t come to talk.

Earlier Wednesday morning one is apt to find Brad shooting pool with Jean Cory, Beth Reid, and Becky Short.

Brad recently completed a six-year stint on the Foundation board, during which time he served two years as vice-president and one year as president.

As though he didn’t have enough on his plate, he is now executive-secretary of the William Temple House Board of Directors. He proudly states that 87.5 cents of every dollar taken in is spent on the organization’s mission of helping the needy.

Since his sister Laura died of complications from alcoholism, he has dedicated his major efforts towards stopping others, especially women, from falling into the same trap. Brad works closely with the YWCA, Union Gospel Mission and Central City Concern on abstinence programs aimed at separating addicts from liquor, drugs, and nicotine.

He co-founded a safe house called Laura’s Place in cooperation with Central City Concern. Under the plan, addicted women, many of whom have committed crimes and lost their children, and who are in the early stages of recovery, are chosen as residents. Their children are restored to them and all are placed in the safe house at an undisclosed location where abusive spouses and former lovers cannot find them.

Brad believes that boys and girls who stay clear of injurious substances until they are 21 are less likely to become addicts. To this end he has established an anonymous registry on his web page where young people may vow never to partake until they are of age. So far 175 have done so.

Ironically, Brad played piano in cocktail lounges for many years. While he himself chose not to imbibe, he was not militant about other adults meeting after work, say, for a cocktail. However, he did not create the “jolly piano bar” where lonely drinkers rely on the pianist for their social life. He was strictly background and not a “friend.”

He composes and writes the lyrics for much of the popular-style music he performs. Brad has produced several CDs, most recently a CD single “Christmas Carol” performed by several of Portland’s best-known musicians. And as usual with Brad, any profit goes to charity.

Another of his compositions, “Green Rain,” was heard in January on the soundtrack of Fox TV’s “The Finders.” Written in 1994, the lyrics to “Green Rain” were a three-person effort by Alice Sedgwick, Brad, and Brad’s wife Janet.

Brad is married to the former Janet Hughes. She volunteers in the children’s department of the Main Library downtown. Janet is a welcoming presence there and delights in directing the children’s research for school work.

Whenever we feel as though there is no hope for this world, we can be grateful that the Mersereaus are out there providing role models.

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