The Way We Were: Elizabeth “Lizann” Bradshaw

The Way We Were: Elizabeth “Lizann” Bradshaw
What’s My Line? cast Sherrye North, Alan Alda, Kim Hunter, Arlene Francis, contestant Elizabeth Bradshaw, Gene Rayburn and Larry Blyden
Elizabeth R. Bradshaw as a toddler

Elizabeth R. Bradshaw as a toddler

Her name is Elizabeth Bradshaw, but close friends call her “Lizann,” and by the time you’ve read this write-up about the interesting (and often surprising) life of this retired English teacher, you will yearn for the opportunity to address her as “Lizann.” 

The oldest of four children born to William P. Ratchford, Ph.D., and his wife, Elizabeth Buckley Ratchford, Lizann Bradshaw learned about the use of proper grammar at an early age.

“Dad was a professor of chemistry at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and Mom taught English and drama at the high school level before her children came along,” she explained, adding that her mother was an actress and an elocutionist, heavily involved in radio theater and always a teacher at heart. Often, around the family dinner table, Lizann and her siblings were challenged with word games. “Mom insisted on precise pronunciation. We all memorized little ditties and learned to speak clearly and correctly.” 

Her excellent diction came in handy when Lizann attended high school at The Cecilian Academy, a private Catholic girls’ school named for St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.  Although Lizann performed in all of the musical comedies at the school, she never had a singing role because singing was not her strong suit…memorization and music appreciation carried her through. At The Cecilian Academy, students learned all about opera. Lizann was fascinated by the music and the words. “To this day, I can sing every word of Carmen in English,” she said. “We also got to attend many of the operas in Philadelphia…what a great privilege that was!”

While Lizann’s mother mentored her in drama, music and language, her father doted on his oldest daughter, giving her special attention that included taking her to professional baseball games and driving her to New York to attend the U.S. Open on Labor Day weekend.

“I saw some of the tennis greats play, like Billie Jean King, when I was there with Dad,” she recalled. “My father was a man of noble character – kind and generous and patient. I adored him. It was only later in life that I realized he must have had a special fondness for me as the oldest of his four children. He wanted me to be a scientist and often took me outside to watch the stars at night. We saw the first Sputnik together.” Because of her father, Lizann developed a great interest in astronomy, which continues to this day. Almost nightly, she gazes at the “moons of Jupiter” through the large telescope that holds a central place of honor in the living room of her 9th floor Lakewood condominium.   

After graduating from Rosemont College in Pennsylvania with a B.A. in History and English, Lizann married and spent several years as the wife of a rising executive who was transferred from place to place and was expected to entertain a great deal. In conjunction with entertaining her husband’s associates, Lizann developed an interest in fine cuisine, particularly the different varieties and flavors of wine. 

Elizabeth R. Bradshaw as a young girl

Elizabeth R. Bradshaw as a young girl

An avid student at whatever she pursued, and an entrepreneur by nature, Lizann soon became quite knowledgeable about wine and, while living in Washington, D.C., put together a colorful program illustrated with world maps and bottle shapes and sent out flyers to people in the community offering to do mini-lectures on wines from around the world. She also offered to organize wine-tasting events in people’s homes. Her unique wine-tasting/lecture series became so popular that, by the time she moved to Chicago, she was acknowledged as a highly respected wine expert. 

In 1972, Lizann was hired by Foremost Liquor Stores in Chicago as director of the chain’s Wine Society. She made a good living as a wine lecturer and organizer of wine tasting events.

Young and attractive with an unusual profession, Lizann was a perfect candidate for the national television show, “What’s My Line?” where celebrities attempted to guess how people made a living. The “What’s My Line?” celebrities Lizann met were Sherrye North, Kim Hunter, Alan Alda, Arlene Francis, Gene Rayburn and Larry Blyden. What the television audience didn’t know was that the weekly program was filmed in the studio in one day, each 30-minute segment featuring the same celebrities in different costumes, and new contestants appearing, some of whom were garnered from the audience. That same day that Lizann appeared, her mother, Elizabeth Ratchford, was chosen from the audience to appear in a later program – her “line” being as a school librarian. Grinning at the memory, Lizann produced a photograph of her chatting with Arlene Francis as she and the rest of the cast were on stage between shows.

Eventually, her wine expertise led her to a new venture – partnering with a friend to open a charming little French restaurant in the Homestead Hotel in Evanston, Illinois. The restaurant, Café Provencal, featured French Country cooking with delicious appetizers like Quenelles, and entrees such as Coquilles St. Jacques, French Peasant Chicken Stew and Grand Marnier Souffle.  Lizann managed the business, doing the hiring and firing and pairing the items on the menu with special wines. She was onsite at the restaurant nearly every evening and by the time her husband was transferred to California, had learned enough about the restaurant business to begin another new career as a restaurant critic for San Francisco Magazine. When she relocated to New Jersey, she continued her career as a restaurant critic, writing for New Jersey Monthly Magazine for over a decade. 

It was in 1986 that she decided freelance writing was not enough and went to Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey to complete her graduate studies, earning a New Jersey State Teacher’s certificate. “With parents who were teachers, it took me quite a while to discover my own calling to do the same,” she noted, describing the great satisfaction she has derived from being a teacher. She began her teaching career at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton, New Jersey, teaching English and history. During the time that she taught at Stuart Country Day School, she became a single woman and continued writing restaurant critiques for New Jersey Monthly Magazine.

Lizann Bradshaw made one more momentous career move when she accepted a position as an English teacher at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. There, she enjoyed a long and productive career, retiring in 2013 after years of teaching students figures of speech by combining her love of music and many of the same word games her mother had played around the dinner table.  For instance, she often used the lyrics of folksongs by popular singers such as Peter, Paul and Mary to illustrate metaphors, oxymorons, etc., engaging her students in the pursuit of fun as well as learning. 

Elizabeth R. Bradshaw as a teen

Elizabeth R. Bradshaw as a teen

One of her most cherished moments as a teacher occurred when she was presented the Rufus R. McClure Award, a teacher chosen by Tucker Sarchio as the one who helped most.  “To be chosen by one of your students for a special award is truly an honor,” she said, proudly sharing the plaque she was presented by The Bolles School in the 2005-2006 school year.    

Lizann is enjoying her retirement, still keeping busy with various activities that challenge her mind, such as completing the New York Times crossword puzzle daily, and acting as a judge for the annual Shakespeare competition sponsored by the English-Speaking Union (ESU), an international educational charity that aims to empower people of different languages and cultures by building skills in communication and encouraging the effective use of the English language around the globe. 

The annual ESU National Shakespeare Competition provides high school students across the country the opportunity to compete by performing two Shakespeare pieces – a sonnet and a monologue. Winners from around the nation get an all-expense paid trip to compete at Lincoln Center in New York City. This past year, Lizann and two other judges had a group of 10 local high school students from which to choose first, second and third place winners. Libby Kellmanson, a student of Katie Black at Episcopal School of Jacksonville, won the ESU Jacksonville Branch competition, placing as a semi-finalist in New York City. To learn more about the 2018-2019 ESU National Shakespeare Competition, visit www.esuus.org/jacksonville.

As the oldest of four siblings, Lizann remains close to her brothers, Bill Ratchford (Jacksonville) and Tom Ratchford (Northfield, Illinois), and her sister, Faith Morreale of Pinehurst, North Carolina. She spends a great deal of time with fellow retired teachers from Bolles, and often runs into former students, happily receiving hugs in grocery store aisles.

In regard to her former “lines” as a wine lecturer and organizer of wine-tastings, a restaurant critic, and a restaurant owner, Lizann Bradshaw remains a wine connoisseur and still knows a good bottle of bubbly when she sees it, but rarely drinks wine these days. She needs to keep her mind sharp for the New York Times crossword puzzle in the morning and for stargazing through her telescope at night. Astronomy and crossword puzzles may seem like strange bedfellows for some, but not for this diverse lady whose interests in words, wine and the world have never waned.


By Susan D. Brandenburg
Resident Community News

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