In Memoriam

Jason K. Bridge '61
A decorated war hero, he had a famous sense of humor.

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Starting baseball pitchers are rarely among the game's best sluggers, but as an undergraduate, Jason "Chick" Bridge '61 took pride in his ability to hit balls that sailed over the railroad tracks in Durham. Bridge, who died of cardiac arrest on July 4 at age 71 in Sun Valley, Idaho, was also on the basketball team and later enjoyed playing in alumni games with his son Jason "Ty" Bridge '86. Chick was an avid downhill skier—so enthusiastic that when his three children were young and ski conditions were perfect, it didn't matter whether it was a school day or not. "We loved to hear him yelling, 'Everybody get up! We're going skiing!'" recalls his daughter, Tracy Barry.

After graduation, Bridge was commissioned in the Air Force and flew a Sikorsky CH-3C "Jolly Green" helicopter in Vietnam, rescuing downed pilots and crew members behind enemy lines. He received several awards, including the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross, but he chose not to discuss the war, even with family and friends. He went on to a 30-year career as a pilot with American Airlines.

With his third wife, Sharon, Bridge enjoyed animals and kept dogs, including a loyal Sheltie, Cody, who was by his side to the end. One winter, he nursed a wounded elk, naming her "Frieda" and grumbling about the cleanup chores that keeping a well-fed elk entails.

Bridge had a famous sense of humor, and his repertoire of jokes was legendary, says his son Lyman. "He said that in the cockpit, pilots tell jokes constantly to pass the time." In retirement, he took up flying small remote-control planes, says his daughter. After accidentally crashing one through a neighbor's window, he called to apologize, saying, "I'm just calling to tell you there's an airplane in your dining room."

For all his lightheartedness, he was also intuitive. When he was in his early 20s, Lyman found himself at loose ends, his father gave him the choice of "hanging around Dover with your buddies" or moving to Idaho to live with him for a year. He stuck to the time limit, recalls Lyman, who moved out as they had agreed when the year was up. "I had to live in my van for a while," he says—just the incentive he needed to start his own successful business.

When Tracy broke up with her first love, her father sensed how she was feeling, she says, and told her, "It'll be OK. We've all been through it." His knack of knowing when something was wrong and just what to say is what she misses most, she says. Now a pilot herself, she will also miss the way he ended every phone call. "Love you," he always said. "Fly safe."

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