Mr. Downtown. Admiral. A class act. One of a kind.
These are all ways you hear used to describe Herb Bridge.
Herb was all of these things and more. To us at United Way he was a friend, a leader and a force for good. To list the ways he was involved in the community is impressive—including co-chairing the United Way campaign in 2000 with his son Jon—and yet, still doesn’t quite paint a picture.
Herb was the donor who would seek out staff at an event to say how honored he was to be invited. To start every call with a joke or riddle. To call staff to see how an ailing parent was doing or whether a child had recovered. To call (always a phone call!) and thank people personally for the smallest acts.
We thought the best way to honor Herb is to hear from him in his own words. Below is an excerpt from a Spring 2014 interview—and yes, he called us to thank us the next day for chatting with him.
What is your earliest memory of giving back?
In my family, giving back was an inheritance. Dad and Grandpa were both very generous—they didn’t have much to give, but they were always giving back. I remember challenging my grandpa when he gave money to someone begging on the street, but he set me straight. “You don’t know their story—what I see is a spark of humanity and a person that deserves help.”
How did you teach your sons to give back?
The boys (Jon and Dan) developed a sense of compassion by example. Their mom (Shirley) was diagnosed with cancer early on in our 60-year marriage. Shirley was tough and an amazing woman. She was one of the state’s first female registered pharmacists and was an active volunteer at nonprofits—but her home care was ongoing. The boys saw a man who was completely devoted to her and tailored his life to give her the care and attention she needed.
What makes you most proud of the way your family gives back?
When we sold our company to Berkshire Hathaway, Jon and his cousin Ed did something I wouldn’t have thought of. Suddenly, these shares that had never been worth a dime became very valuable. They said right away—the people who have made this company successful are the folks who have been working here all these years and they should be part of this financial success. They set aside $9 million to be divided among the people who worked for the company (even for those who had been with the company for a very short time) so they could all take part.
How do you describe your commitment to the community?
I don’t know if there’s just one thing, but I’ve got a framed quote from Marian Wright Edelman on my desk: “Service is the rent we pay to be living” and I think that says it nicely.
Herb Bridge will be missed by us and by many. His legacy of kindness and generosity will live on.