The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Columns

February 9, 2013

Don McAllister: Honoring an uplifting, encouraging friend

Every day starts a new story. Jim Bridges was 94 when he died, but he wasn’t old. Jim made every day a new story and he was even in motion when his time came.

We interviewed TSgt. Jim Bridges in May 2007. He was already a longtime family friend. My dad worked with Jim at both the Post office and at Rozelles in their retirement years. I use the word “retirement” loosely.

TSgt. Bridges did his service during World War II in Walter Reed and some English hospitals. It is fitting that Jim was involved in healing at a time when the world was going mad with slaughter. One of Jim’s patients was General Blackjack Pershing, who led the American Expeditionary Force in The Great War for Civilization.

I can see the conversation now. “Good morning General! I hope you’re doing well today. Have you met my friend Doctor So-and-so, (or nurse So-and-so, or the stranger who just passed in the hall)? If a person wasn’t a lifelong friend of Jim, it was because he hadn’t met them yet. Jim would finish with a laugh that was “Jim’s laugh.” It was the happiest chuckle God ever installed in a human being. Finally Jim would have wished the general a good day tempered with a “God bless you” in some form. Then Jim would shuffle out the door to make someone else’s day.

Jim Bridges was an encourager and had a knack for being there when you needed him most. Often, after he had read one of my columns, Jim would call to tell me how much he had enjoyed it. It was always good to hear from Jim. I once asked Jim if he had ever become angry with anyone. He said, “Once, but it only lasted a few moments.” That’s not a bad score against 94 years of being a good guy.

When Jim thought there was a need one could expect a phone call or a card. He attended funerals like he had season tickets. I fully expected to see Jim at his own funeral. I looked but I didn’t catch him. I was disappointed, but I’m sure he was there. I must have lost him in the crowd.

The last time I saw Jim was at Phyllis Leedom’s funeral. Jim introduced me to Jim Bailey, whose columns I so enjoy (thanks for Phyllis’ column). After the funeral we walked out together. I was pleased to see that he was doing so well. His mind was sharp and his body was still blessed with remarkable mobility.  He asked how mom was doing and if she would mind a call. One month later, Jim was gone.

I once asked Jim where he was born. He said, “Between slow down and resume speed Mississippi.” That’s the way Jim moved all of his life, taking in all of the good of this world and the people he met.

Never have I known a man who so fully represented his savior’s story.

Don McAllister directs the National Veteran’s Historical Archive. His column appears the second Sunday of each month. He can be reached at nvha01@hotmail.com and www.nvharchive.org.

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