Alton C. Bridges, an honest, hardworking, passionate friend, family man, and patriot, passed on to calmer waters on July 23, 2016, while fly fishing on the Miramichi River in Blackville, New Brunswick, Canada. He was born in Newburyport, MA, the eldest son of Chancy Curtis and Ruby Mae Bridges, on April 8, 1948.
Although Al's family moved with some frequency, he considered Corea and Orrington, Maine the hometowns of his youth. Born to a lobstering family with a hunting tradition, he developed a love of outdoor recreation. His love of fresh water fishing was fostered by a very special neighbor, Gil Parker. He had a passion for all sports and played varsity football for Brewer High before graduating in 1966.
While a student at the University of Maine, Al decided to enlist in the Army rather than be drafted into service. He was in the 1st Squadron 9th Cavalry, B Troop. Serving two tours in the Vietnam war as a scout helicopter door gunner - he was shot down three times, once behind enemy lines. He earned numerous decorations for valor and service. They include a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, Air Medal (twice for valor), Distinguished Flying Cross (a very prestigious award for aviators), a Purple Heart with clusters, and a Bronze Star - one of the highest honors that can be awarded for exemplary achievement in the service. He was a brave, distinguished soldier, and served his country in an exceptional manner. He recently conceded he was the fifth most decorated soldier living in Maine. He was proud to have served his country but most people never knew of his accomplishments, as he was never one to boast.
Al spent his professional career as a forestry and construction equipment salesman for Timberjack and, then, with Chadwick-BaRoss for 32 years. In this profession, he was known all over Eastern and Northern Maine as a trusted businessman. He had an uncanny ability to remember names, locations, and numbers. These skills, along with his friendly grin, made him an excellent salesman garnering many professional awards but most important to Al, lasting relationships with colleagues and clientele.
Al was a friend to everyone. He could often be found with the gentlemen of the Veazie Salmon Club, fraternizing over a game of cribbage. He was an avid fly fisherman, most notably for Atlantic Salmon. He took pleasure in spending time at his fishing camp and passing the salmon run seasons with his Salar Haven friends. He would wish them all "tight lines." A longtime member of Penobscot Valley Country Club, Al enjoyed not only the game of golf but the camaraderie he found there. He would bid them to "hit 'em straight."
Al was passionate about sports. If he was not actively participating in them he was at home savoring a good scotch while watching the Red Sox, Celtics, New York Giants and the Patriots. He spent many happy weekends as a coach of Holden basketball, baseball, and Brewer football youth teams.
In 1970, Al married the love of his life, Jean. Their marriage of 46 years was one to be modeled. Although he had his own passions, they walked through life doing so much together. They built a house and home in Holden, Maine. Friends and family always surrounded their dinner table. Al was a fantastic cook and you were sure to leave his table full of food and love. He showed his fondness by inviting you to dinner. He would say to Jean "I'll cook, you clean?" And if the cupboard or freezer lacked an after dinner Oreo or ice cream he'd say, "I'll buy, you fly?" Their marriage had so many of those examples of partnership. They were a perfect match, balancing each other's strengths and weaknesses as they raised a strong family together. They often played golf and retreated to camp. They gave much to their children and, more recently, five grandchildren, whom they adored. Never a day went by that they did not express their love for one another. Al was one to always let you know how he felt. When he departed everyone knew they were loved by "Al", "Dad", "Grampy", because he never missed an opportunity to say it.
Al will be deeply missed by all people who knew him well. He is survived by his wife, Jean Bridges; children, Curtis Bridges and his wife, Pamela of Auburn, New Hampshire; Carrie Jardine and her husband, Robert of Dedham, Maine; father, Chancy Bridges; siblings, Jeff and partner, Jim, Sherrill, Wayne and wife, Teri, Lorne and wife, Celeste, Tommy, Richard and wife, Jean. He was predeceased by his mother, Ruby Bridges. He was very proud of his five grandchildren, Allyson and Casey Bridges, Liam, Sydney, and Miles Jardine, and they all adored their "Grandpa." He had a very special relationship with each of them and his wisdom, humor, and affection will be sorely missed in the coming years. Al came from a very large family with countless aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. His family loved his larger-than-life presence.
Al always said, "after surviving Vietnam every day is a bonus." He was a man who lived his life fully, never putting off the things he wanted to do or the places he wanted to go. He worked hard so he could play even harder. Every day you could find him really living his American dream.
A celebration of life will be held in Al's honor at a future date. If you'd like to honor his life, donations should be directed in his name to the Special Olympics of Maine by visiting somaine.org or simply mail your donation check to Special Olympics Maine, 125 John Roberts Rd. #5, South Portland, ME 04106.
Condolences to the family may be expressed at www.BrookingsSmith.com.