John David (as he was called as a boy) Bridgers once said that he had lead a "charmed" life. These annals explain the family connections that allowed that to happen. They aren't really the particulars of John David's life but rather the events that created his unique family enclave on Evans Street in Greenville, North Carolina.
Born on July 4, 1920 in Kinston, John David was the first child of Samuel Leon Bridgers and Essie Sheppard Whichard and the first Whichard grandchild of his generation. More than just "charmed," his life is representative of an entire generation of Americans raised in small rural towns during the depression, coming of age on the battlefields of World War II, returning to school on the GI bill and parenting the Baby Boom of the 1950's.
Raised in Greenville, John David attended public schools and the then East Carolina Teachers' College, now East Carolina University. As a young boy he worked for the family newspaper The Daily Reflector and was an excellent student. He graduated from college after just 3 years of study and was voted Most Likely To Succeed. His main loves were theater, tennis and swing dancing.
After college he worked temporarily in the tobacco industry and for a local grocery store while looking around for something to satisfy his youthful wanderlust. He found it in an ad in The National Geographic recruiting Naval aviators. Joining the United States Naval Reserve, he obtained his wings shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor providing him with a front row seat in the Pacific theater.
As a carrier-based dive-bomber pilot, he saw action in most of the major sea battles of the war including Midway, Coral Sea and Leyte Gulf rising to the rank of Lt. Commander. Commendations included Air Medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross and The Navy Cross. In addition to these accomplishments, the end of the war found him with a wife, Edith Holland Hamrick (also from North Carolina), and a new name, "Jigs" (from his flight name, Jig Dog).
He met Edie, an officer in the WAVE's, at the end of the war while stationed in Florida and serving as a flight instructor. They were married in August 1945. After the war, he attended Duke University medical school. John David, Jr. (Jock) was born in 1946 followed by Samuel Leon II (Sam) in 1948.
Called back to active duty for the Korean War, he served as a flight surgeon -- not seeing combat but learning to fly jets. His third son, Carl Hamrick, was born in 1950 followed by his final son, Raymond Siebert, in 1952 and his first daughter, Barbara Jean, in 1954. Following the Korean War, he became a pediatric resident at Children's' Hospital in Philadelphia and a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.
During those years, Jigs spent long hours at the hospital while Edie was busy raising the kids. The kids remember Sunday afternoons at the hospital followed by visits to the local museums and summers in Maine or on the Jersey shore. Ellen Holland (Holly), Edie & Jig's sixth and final child, was born in 1960. Shortly thereafter Jigs left Pennsylvania to return to North Carolina and enter private practice.
He joined Dr. John F. "Jack" Lynch, the son of his mother's childhood friend, at The Infant and Child Clinic, an established pediatric practice in High Point, and was a partner in that practice until the mid-1980's. As part of their practice, he and Dr. William Michel specialized in the treatment of "hyperactive" children before it was widely recognized by the medical establishment. His community activities during those years included election to the High Point School Board including a term as Vice-Chairman and nomination by Governor James Hunt to the East Carolina University Board of Trustees.
In his early 60's, Jigs was again struck by that wanderlust, leaving his pediatric practice to join The Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation. He and Edie traveled the U.S. for several years before he accepted a position as Medical Director for Burdette-Tomlin Hospital in Cape May, New Jersey. He served in this capacity until retirement in 1994 at which time he and Edie relocated to Connecticut. By this time their children were living throughout the U. S. making it a priority to live near a major metropolitan airport.
John, Jr. lived in Nashville and was a Colonel working for The Tennessee National Guard. He had earlier served in the U. S. Army and received an MBA from Austin Peay University. Sam, also living in Connecticut, was a neurologist having attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as an undergraduate and a medical student and later taught at Yale. Carl, a graduate architect from North Carolina State University and the University of Oregon, was in private practice in San Francisco. Raymond also a graduate of UNC-CH was a television producer in Los Angeles for "Unsolved Mysteries."
Barbara received degrees from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, The American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Hunter College in New York City. She is now the manager of the photography studio at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Holland was an undergraduate at UNC-CH and received a business degree from The American International School of Management in Arizona. She is now the Director of Real Estate for Cinnabon in Atlanta.
Edie passed away in August 2000 and Jigs joined Holland in the Atlanta area. It's not North Carolina but it's near enough to allow him to visit his family in Greenville and Edie's family in Boiling Springs. While living in High Point, he and Edie were members of The Emerywood Baptist Church and were instrumental in the eventual building of a columbarium on the church grounds. Edie is buried there and in her memory Jigs provided the seed money for a memorial garden to honor all those interred on the church grounds.
With this gift he found a new love and purpose. He is now helping various family and friends in establishing gardens in Greenville, Boiling Springs, Woodbridge, CT and his current home in Georgia. He spends the remainder of his time reading, working at his writing and keeping in contact with old friends, extended family, his six children, nine grand-children and two great-grandchildren. We all look forward to further installments of The Shaggy Dog Chronicles.
-- December 2001 --
Now that we are well into the transcription
of The Shaggy Dog Chronicles, the following format is evolving for the
future publication of these writings:
Book One: The Family
Lineage of John D. Bridgers
This book will consist of Book
One of The Shaggy Dog Chronicles as
originally written and now available on the Web Site.
Book Two: Greenville,
This book will combine Crick, as now available on the Web Site, plus
other vignettes from Jigs' childhood years in Greenville.
Book Three: The Navy Years
This book will consist
of the stories currently on Web Site plus the yet to be completed section on
"Sieb." These stories cover both World War II and the Korean War as well
as Jigs' and Edie's marriage.
Book Four: The Family Lineage of Edith H.
Picking up with Jigs and Edie's
marriage, this book tells the story of Edie's family and will consist of the
book as currently available on the Web Site.
Book Five: Medicine
This book will
consist of the stories now available on the Web Site covering Jigs' years in
medical school, teaching and in private practice with some overlap with The
Navy Years and Jigs' time as a Flight Surgeon.
Book Six: The Family of John D. & Edith H.
This book will include the stories Jigs has
written on the arrival of each of his and Edie's kids. These stories
have yet to be transcribed. This book will also include Sam's toast from Jig and Edie's 50th anniversary,
Edie's eulogy plus miscellaneous vignettes
from his days in Philadelphia and High Point.
This book will feature The
Teakwood Ballads from the Web Site plus numerous other poems Jigs has
written over the last 15 years. These items have no connection to the
family or its lineage.
This book will feature more than a dozen or so
essays Jigs has written about miscellaneous subjects that have caught his
fancy from singing in the church choir to the politics of the day.
Again, these items have no connection to the family or its lineage nor are
This book will feature an epilogue Jigs has
written and is transcribed but has yet to be published on the Web Site.
This section will feature the miscellaneous
postscripts now on the Web Site, various family photographs plus anything else
that will not fit elsewhere into the book.
How long this effort will take is hard to
predict but my hope is to have the family writings (Books One through Six plus
Book Nine) completed by the summer of 2004.
-- Carl Bridgers, July