In the Name of the 'Father,' part 2
February 28, 2008
|Tractors on Evangelista's farm|
Patricia Bragg often drops the the name Paul C. Bragg, a famous California nutritionist and lecturer from the early and mid-20th century. There's a picture of the two prominently placed on her company's website (www.bragg.com). His name also appears on every product and book put out by Bragg Live Food Products.
She must have used the words "my dad" in reference to the late nutritionist and 1920's Los Angeles Times health food columnist Paul Bragg at least a dozen times during the course of our Feb. 15 interview. But he was not her biological father.
According to her California birth certificate, she was born Patricia Pendleton at Oakland's Peralta Hospital. Her birth took place at 1:57 a.m. on April 29, 1929, and her biological parents were Harry C. and Nettie Pendleton.
Harry Pendleton's 1961 obituary noted that he was a well-known San Francisco land developer and former Little Rock newspaper reporter who was "the first to send a telegram to the rest of the United States after the earthquake of 1906." Nettie's obit listed her as a "fourth-generation Californian."
Patricia's use of the Bragg name comes from her marriage to Robert E. Bragg, a chiropractor and son of Paul Bragg. That makes Paul Bragg Patricia's father-in-law.
Maui Time could find no record of when that marriage took place. But their 1956 divorce proceedings were apparently such big news that the Los Angeles Times covered it. On Jan. 17, 1956, the Times even quoted Patricia as saying that she and Paul were very close.
"He treats me just like his very own daughter and I'm so thankful," she said in the Times story, which included a photo of a smiling Patricia and Paul shaking hands with a not-really smiling Robert in the courtroom. "And I treat him like my very own father. I feel very obligated to him."
It's unknown what Harry Pendleton, who was still alive in 1956, thought of those words.
Already familiar with the Times' coverage when Patricia visited my office, I asked her if, in fact, Paul was actually her father-in-law. "Yes," she said, "but he adopted me."
"He adopted you?" I asked, remembering that Patricia was 26 at the time of her divorce from Robert Bragg. "He legally adopted you?"
"Yes," she said. "He legally adopted me."
While certainly possible—adult adoptions are legal in California—Maui Time could find no public record of it having taken place. When I asked Patricia when the adoption occurred, she said simply, "Years and years ago. My private life is my private life."
This became a nearly constant refrain. "You don't need to go into that," she'd lecture me whenever I asked about her biological parents. "I'm not a Hollywood celebrity."
Later, she finally agreed to speak briefly about them.
"I had a wonderful mother," Patricia said. "I was very blessed. Both my dads got along—they were like brothers. I've been very blessed."
Patricia added that Paul Bragg "was like a father to me from the day I was born. He stayed in our house many times. It was programmed for me to marry his son. But it just didn't work out."
* * *
Bragg.com lists many, many accomplishments for Patricia Bragg, but one in particular stands out: that she's "the youngest woman ever to be granted a U.S. Patent." We couldn't confirm that, but Bragg is indeed an inventor.
On Oct. 29, 1957, the U.S. Patent office approved invention Number 2,811,156. It's for a "Douche or Enema Device" that can be "arranged or mounted between a water supply source and an injection discharge nozzle."
"It was really fascinating," Bragg told me of the events surrounding her patent approval. "We went to Washington, D.C. The head of the Patent Office gave us a personal tour."
The name on the patent is Patricia Pendleton Bragg, though it appears she stopped using her maiden name not long after that, becoming just Patricia Bragg. That people might think Patricia was actually Paul Bragg's biological daughter didn't seem to bother her—"There's no reason they'd be confused," she told me. In fact, there's some evidence that Patricia doesn't mind it when people believe that Paul Bragg was her biological father.
Near the end of our Feb. 15 interview, Patricia gave me a brochure titled "Patricia Bragg, born to carry on her father's health crusade." It was labeled a "reprint" of a long article from Natural Foods Merchandiser, a health foods industry trade publication. I put the word "reprint" in quotes because the brochure Bragg handed me is very different from the story as published by NFM.
Originally titled "Patricia Bragg: born to do her father's work," the NFM story was written by a Colorado freelance writer and editor named Vicky Uhland, whose name appears nowhere on the Bragg brochure. Uhland's story contained numerous details and quotes not found in the brochure Patricia Bragg handed me.
For example, Uhland's story contains the following sentences: "Paul C. Bragg was born in 1880, 1881 or 1895, depending on who you believe. Some Internet sites have posted a Social Security death index entry for a Paul Bragg of Desert Hot Springs, Calif., (where Paul C. Bragg lived) who was born in February 1895 and died in December 1976."
Those sentences are nowhere to be found in Bragg's brochure, which also appears on the Bragg company website. At one point in her story, Uhland quotes Paul Wenner as saying, "Patricia's a wonderful mystery, like a little medicinal butterfly going from flower to flower." But in Bragg's brochure, the quote is very different: "Patricia's a gifted crusader, like a little medicinal butterfly going from flower to flower."
Reached by phone, Uhland said she was aware that Bragg's reprint was very different from her version.
"The article on the [Bragg*] website has been changed from what I wrote," Uhland told me. "I later found out that she's not his daughter."
Uhland was referring to the following characterization she made early in her story: "Not only was Paul Bragg responsible for his daughter's physical existence, he also shaped her emotional, spiritual and mental character."
Bragg apparently had no problem with that obviously incorrect statement, because it appears word-for-word in her reprint.
* The article originally misidentified the website containing Uhland's modified story
PART 3: Bragg and religion ->
In the Name of the 'Father' - Part 1
| Part 2
| Part 3
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