Tenor Jerry Hadley allegedly shot himself in the head and suffered a severe brain injury.

Opera star Jerry Hadley reportedly shot himself in the head Tuesday morning at his upstate New York home and is on life support.


Hadley, 55, shot himself in the head with an air rifle and suffered serious injury, including brain damage, according to a release from the New York State Police.


A Thomas native and 1974 Bradley University graduate, Hadley has been living in Clinton Corners, near Poughkeepsie, N.Y.


The case is being investigated as an attempted suicide, the release said.


Hadley had been having "difficulties in the past few years with financial problems and was in the process of filing for bankruptcy. He has been very depressed and was under a doctor’s care for the depression and being treated with several medications," according to the release.


Less than three years ago, Hadley told the Bradley graduating class of 2004 that success came when he quit trying so hard.


"When I’ve stepped back and surrendered and trusted … things just fell out of the sky and into my lap," he said during the December commencement address.


Before Hadley’s voice graced thousands during his performances in opera houses from Milan’s Teatro alla Scala to New York’s Metropolitan Opera, he spent his boyhood days on a Bureau County farm located just north of Interstate 80.


Local friends were stunned and saddened by the news.


"He was so nice, funny, witty sense of humor, and he was so very smart," said Nancy Anderson of Manlius, a longtime friend.


"That’s just, oh," she said, trailing off, her voice cracking.


Anderson said the two were childhood friends just two years apart in age. Their fathers farmed together.


"He played guitar at our wedding," she said.


Since his 1987 debut at the Metropolitan Opera, Hadley won three Grammys, and became known as one of the world’s most renowned tenors of his generation.


But he never neglected his roots. Hadley visited Manlius — neighbor to his tiny hometown, Thomas — where he attended high school, in March 2005 for a benefit for the Bureau Valley School Foundation, a fundraising arm of the Bureau Valley High School.


About a decade before, Hadley performed a similar concert as a formal dedication for the new high school’s auditorium.


"I walked in and I just couldn’t believe it. I started to cry. I thought, ‘Wow, this is great.’ I think this is such a little gem of a place to perform," Hadley told the Journal Star during his second performance at the school.


Lee Wenger, afternoon classical music host at WCBU 89.9, said his wife, Denise Adams, was in the Bradley Chorale with Hadley during the mid-70s.


Hadley volunteered his talent to the public radio’s pledge drives several times, Wenger said, noting that he and his wife just a few years ago drove to Champaign to watch Hadley’s guest performance at the University of Illinois in a rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.


He was always friendly, and treated the two like long-lost companions, he said.


"It’s such a surprise," Wenger said.
"He was always so positive and upbeat and outgoing."


Grant Andresen, who taught Hadley history and drama when he attended what was then Manlius High School, said he was "terribly shocked and terribly saddened by the news."


"I had just seen him a couple of months ago and he seemed to be in very good spirits and was looking forward to the future," Andresen said. "That’s why this is so shocking to me."


Andresen said the two chatted when Hadley was home recently visiting family and friends.


"I know the community will be very saddened by this," he added. "He was very, very well liked. Jerry never forgot his roots and the people he grew up with."


Molly Parker can be reached at (309) 686-3285 or mparker@pjstar.com.