ALEXANDRA, Va. — Edward Eatherly Bridges, son of John C. Bridges and Anne Hargrave Bridges of Winterville, Mississippi, passed away peacefully on Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Alexandria, VA from complications of kidney disease.
He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline Huet Bridges; his sister, Malvina Anderson; his three children (and their spouses), Olivia-Anne Ortiz (Antoine), Ted Bridges (Amanda), and Jon Marc Bridges (Allie); and seven grandchildren, Matthieu, Thomas, (Ortiz), Emma, Leah, Coleman, Paige, and Chase (Bridges).
Ed was born in Greenville, Mississippi, on Dec. 25, 1937, and raised on his family’s farm. Although he traveled the world, he held great affection for his beloved Delta and always considered it home. After high school, Ed attended Mississippi State University where he studied mechanical engineering and made lifelong friends.
In 1960, Ed completed Officer Candidate School (OCS) with the Army in Fort Sill, Oklahoma. After OCS, Ed attended Army Ranger and Special Warfare School at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He and his fellow classmates were personally awarded their Green Berets by John F. Kennedy. After graduation, he was assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group in Southeast Asia. There, he bravely served two combat tours from 1961 to 1963, as part of the secret war on communism in Southeast Asia. Already a jumpmaster having accomplished over 100 parachute landings, he made three additional combat jumps into Vietnam during this time. In Vietnam, he was primarily embedded with the Montagnard troops of the Highlands, whom he led in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense against the Viet Cong. Ed held great warmth and respect for the Montagnard people he so loved and remained in contact with former soldiers throughout his lifetime. His diverse early experiences helped foster his judgement-free outlook and ability to connect with people of all walks of life. In March 1963, Ed was severely injured in hand to hand combat with Viet Cong forces and medically evacuated from Vietnam.
While in Vietnam, Ed met and fell in love with his future wife, Jacqueline, poolside at the Cercle Sportif Club in Saigon. He left the Army in 1964 to complete his undergraduate degree at
Mississippi State University and then continued with advanced studies at Thunderbird University’s School of International Management in Arizona. Jackie and Ed married in 1966 and enjoyed a rich life with twists and turns and postings around the world. His “anything is possible” attitude made him the ultimate entrepreneur. Past achievements include: selling agricultural and construction materials with JI Case in Beirut, leading oil and gas projects throughout the Arabian Gulf while working with the Procon and Pritchard Companies in Bahrain, establishing a shrimp farm in Guatemala during the 1980s and later in life becoming the CEO of a successful rural communication company that provides services to small towns across America. Ed Bridges has truly seen and done it all and has the passports with multiple extensions to prove it.
Always a raconteur, Ed would captivate his family’s attention at dinner time with larger than life stories: growing up on a farm in the Delta during the 1940s, escaping from an exploding mine shaft in Zimbabwe, somehow mistakenly being identified as a spy in the Yemen and consequently having to spend the night in jail, and a fabled meeting with Idi Amin in Uganda. Family vacations were never boring with Ed Bridges and often involved unusual detours such as a quick stop in Libya only days after the Gaddafi Coup or navigating militia roadblocks along steep mountain roads in Guatemala. His fearlessness was contagious and empowering to those around him and his mantra “not to worry” did somehow prove to be true....most of the time.
Although Ed led an adventurous life, he will also be remembered for building model rocket ships, boisterously and enthusiastically cheering on his children at rowing regattas, his love for hot sauce, babies, and spoiling his grandchildren with real toy motorcycles and other outrageous gifts which make parents cringe but children love. Ed Bridges ́ generous and unbreakable spirit, courage and open mindedness, will forever live in the hearts of those whose lives he touched.