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Remembrance: George Bridgman


Bridgman won't be reporting in for duty anymore. After 20 years of volunteering for the clinic, he died of respiratory complications earlier this month at the age of 82.

For those who knew him, though, his spirit remains very much "in."

AIDS was just becoming public as a new and mysterious disease when Bridgman started at the clinic in 1985. He had already enjoyed a long career as a teacher in Connecticut and then as the associate director of the Episcopal Church's Roslyn Conference Center in Richmond. Next he made volunteering a second career, and the clinic became a second home.

"George always had great advice. Some of it was pretty straightforward," says the clinic's education director, Heather Bronson. "He allayed your problems by putting them in perspective. He was really our Buddha."

Bridgman listened to clients talk about intimate details of their sexual relations or drug experiences. He counseled people who were emotionally wrecked because they found out people they loved had HIV.

Through the years, the face of AIDS and the faces in the office changed, but Bridgman remained solid. He could relate to callers and co-workers, Bronson says — "gay, straight, white, black, transgender, former heroine addicts to people with Ph.D.s."

In the past year, Bridgman's health deteriorated and he couldn't make it into the clinic. So the clinic came to him. On their lunch breaks, staff members took turns bringing Bridgman his daily New York Times accompanied by a chocolate milkshake.

"My dad always went for the underdog, the people who needed the help the most," says Katie Tucker, Bridgman's daughter. "He was just a man who believed that everybody was equal." - Amy Biegelsen

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