Pam Dudding-Burch Contributing writer
Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair and people are taken from this world for many, sometimes unanswered, reasons. Bridgett Oliver was one of those very special people.
“I’m not surprised to see the heavens painted so beautiful with you now joining them,” Bridgett’s mother, Teresa, posted on Facebook. “I know mom and ‘mawmaw’ are happy to see you.”
One of Bridgett’s sisters, Maddie also posted on Facebook: “What a beautiful heart and soul this girl had! I loved every minute I spent with you, even if we fought for most of our childhood. I’m sorry for all of the years I followed you around, and tried to be just like you. God took you too early, but I know you’re happy up there because you’re with Granny and Maw-Maw. I love you so much, bibs❤”
It’s understandable how much a family can miss someone who leaves life too early. How could a young lady from tiny Craig County, and at only 21 years of age impact so many other people? In one breath one can ask that question, yet in another, many offered to answer.
“There is so much I could say when it pertains to Bridgett Oliver, but it could not simply be summed up in the space I am allotted!” Jefferson Lee shared. Lee was a lifelong classmate of Bridgett’s from Kindergarten. “I could fill up the entire New York Times with positive thing to say about that special young lady as well as many others could I am sure.”
And, other fellow classmates who graduated with Bridgett in 2013 certainly did.
*Olivia Dudding Slusher: “Bridgett was most definitely one to encourage you! From preschool until graduation day she had a drive, a motivation, and a passion to help, to serve, and to be a remarkable role model. She surpassed her goals! She made every dream she had come true and she inspired so many of us while doing so! She was so close to graduating and having her dream career. Who knows, maybe the good Lord saw the same thing we did, that she was a remarkable nurse, a loving lady, and a blessing. Maybe he needed her to assist him. She will forever be loved and deeply missed.”
*Zach Carper: “Gosh, I’ve known Bridgett almost all my life! I went to her mom’s daycare when I was little. One of my favorite memories I have with Bridgett was coming home from a youth event I believe. A bunch of us went to eat at CiCi’s pizza and we all had a blast! Bridgett was full of life! She was always very encouraging to be around.”
*Tiffany Fridley: “Bridgett was always so fun to be around and she was truly the most caring person I’ve ever known and I’ve known her since I was seven. Some of my best memories with her were when we used to sit together on the bus traveling to football games when we cheered together. We used to drive everyone on the bus crazy by singing all of the Taylor Swift songs as loudly as we could get by with and of course our favorite song, ‘Hit me with your best shot.’ We had our own little dance moves made up to every word of the song! Bridgett and I always had great times together from the sleepovers to concerts and of course all of the time we spent cheering together. One thing I will never forget about Bridgett is the amount of cheese pizza that a tiny girl like her could intake! Anyone who knows her knows she loved it! She will be truly missed by all of us!”
*Sarah Slusher: “Bridgett was always one of the good ones. She had something about her that just made everyone she encountered love her. She was brilliant and it was always obvious she was going to make it far in everything she attempted. I mean, she had a job with RMH, the best hospital around here, before even graduating from college! That says something big about her work ethic and discipline. She was just a blessing for her family, and it is an absolute tragedy she’s gone so soon.”
*Summer Austin: “Bridgett was something special and one of a kind. She would go above and beyond to reach her goals, but would also help anyone who needed it because she wanted others to reach their goals as well. She loved and cared for anyone! I remember when she would have me come to her house to stay the night, just to help me prepare for cheerleading tryouts because at that time, that was my goal. She would even take me away for a weekend to go to amusement parks together! Bridgett is a perfect example of a great friend. She made dull moments shine bright!
*Jordyn Frango: “I had so many great memories with Bridgett, but he one that just makes me laugh every time I think about it now is when she was planning her pool birthday party. She made all of her invitations for our friend group. Well, she somehow wrote the wrong date on mine so I showed up the weekend after the original date in all my swimming gear only to find out Bridgett had accidentally written the wrong date on my invitation. Also, I was lucky enough to spend my summers at Blue Ridge Christian Camp with her and it was an awesome experience for the both of us.”
*Morgan Ouelette: “Of course my first thought about Bridgett is how determined she was to catch my bouquet at my wedding. When we were in elementary school, Bridgett made me promise her that if I were to get married first, that I had to make sure she caught my bouquet. She didn’t let me forget my promise on my wedding day! She lunged across the crowd to catch my bouquet! I can’t think of anyone else who was loved by as many people as Bridgett was. There is no doubt in my mind that she will forever be remembered for her kind and loving self. She had a heart of gold and always put others before herself.
*Jefferson Lee: “I remember this girl every day since Kindergarten and how amazingly funny, crazy, outgoing and smart she was! This was a girl who did everything right and I mean EVERYTHING right. This girl had the brightest future of anyone I knew and even though I liked to tease her and pick on her about being ‘perfect’, boy was I jealous and what an inspiration she was. She was also one who wasn’t afraid to keep you in check either. Every single time I did awful on a quiz, didn’t do my homework or slacked off, you could bet your bottom dollar I could count on walking through those doors and hear about it. ‘Jefferson did you do your homework?’ ‘haha no Bridgett,’ I would reply. ‘Jefferson, do you want to play college football?’ ‘Yes Bridgett.” I would reply. ‘Then you had better get your act together.’ ‘Yes mama’ I would reply. Haha! I cannot tell you how many times she and I would have this conversation. In return, oh I would get her back. I made sure to sit behind her in every class we had together and the one thing she couldn’t stand more was when I would constantly crack my knuckles around her and I knew that. I loved to pick on her any chance I got because her smile and laugh was so addicting! In all honesty and joking aside, I wasn’t a good student and there were things that I didn’t understand, but I could count on her to explain it to me.
Jefferson added: “I looked forward to so many classes that I had with her just because I knew it was going to be entertaining. I was reading last night all the things she had written me in my yearbook over the years and not one was repetitive or normal by any means. She would go off on tangents that I wouldn’t understand and picking with me and making fun or whatever it may be, but I could always count on her to end each section with “All in all you’re a great friend and I do love you”. This girl had so much passion and she took so much pride in everything she accomplished. One of the best memories was in either the 9th or 10th grade we had Mr. Crenshaw’s history class together. At the end of every single class she told me it was my job to put “OUR” books up. Not just mine but ours. And every time I would forget and I would return to my seat she would say “Umm aren’t you forgetting something?”… and she would say it with that contagious smile on her face, so of course how could I say no!? She did wind up bringing me cookies as a thank you, which she swore they were homemade -lol. Another memory I had of her was every game in football I would wear a wristband with a cross that had Philippians 4:13 on it. After every game I would give it to a kid or a player from the other team. In 2010 when we beat James River we came off the field and I tried to give it to this little kid and he threw it back at me. Bridgett proceeded to ask me if she could have it. I asked her jokingly why she should get one when no one else does. She said because it was her favorite bible verse and because of course she is Bridgett and she is special. I couldn’t refuse. It actually went through my mind after seeing her at Radford to ask her if she still had it. There was not one person I spoke about more in college than my friend Bridgett, because when it came to smarts and efforts in school that is truly who I inspired to be. I wish sooooo much we could have stayed more in touch after graduation, but I knew she was going to be something special and I was right. There is nothing she loved more than her sisters. I knew every time I went to Hannah’s softball games I could count on see her and share some laughs. She was one I never had to worry about because I knew where she was going to end up. I think everyone at my college on Mount Union’s campus knew about Bridgett Oliver because I talked about her so much. A few weeks ago, I was incredibly lucky to be on Radford’s campus and I ran into her. She was all excited and ran up and gave me a hug and knocked my freshly made smoothie out of my hand all over the ground, but I was so happy to see her that nothing else mattered. She went on to talk about her life, how amazing of a catch her boyfriend was, jobs and important stuff while I rambled about sports and how I don’t like school. She is someone I truly looked forward to getting back to Craig and rekindling our relationship. This has been an extremely hard thing for me and I have a lot of questions and uncertainties. The only thing I do know for sure is she has for sure gained her wings there is no doubt in my mind. I will miss her, but I will always love her as one of my best friends that I ever had the pleasure on knowing for the past 17 years. Rest easy Darla and I will see you again soon. (I called her Darla because she always reminded me of Darla from the little rascals.) Oh, and let me share one more thing! This girl could put down some CiCi’s pizza! We would always go to CiCi’s and they got to the point where they knew who she was and they would make a whole pizza just for her. She would eat laps around people like me, Dylan and Zachary. Also, one thing that is for sure is she was a Godly person! I have no fear in my mind that she is anywhere but up with the good Lord giving Him some tips on how this should be done! lol”
Still, the atmosphere was more somber at Grace Baptist Church Monday night. The tears in her classmate’s eyes told many more stories than has ever been written. Tight hugs were seen by the hundreds.
Young and older alike attended the viewing. The church parking lot was totally packed an hour before it started. The church van was used to shuttle people back and forth from the parking lot across the street at the Field of Dreams. Some people walked to the church, seeming to disregard that rain that was falling on them.
Hearts seemed to be shattered and B.J. and Teresa were in awe at the attendance of so many who loved their daughter. Hundreds of people patiently waited in the long lines to give their love and condolences to the family. The van continued the entire evening and even a little later and Paitsel Funeral home employees took care of all the fine details to make sure the Oliver family was able to see everyone.
Beautiful flower bouquets garnished the entire platform around Bridgett’s casket. The pictures of her with family, classmates and friends continued to reel on the screen above as many would point and one could hear, “do you remember?”
Bridgett’s family was lined up across the front of the sanctuary. Her boyfriend, Dustin Ritter continuously turned, and watched the rolling of the pictures on the screen of he and his fiancée to be. He was hoping to work enough to be able to afford the ring he wanted to buy for her and become engaged this summer.
Bridgett died on Friday night, March 31, in a fatal car accident, when she was hit by another vehicle. She was a Senior Honors Nursing Major at Radford University. Bridgett was preceded in death by her grandfather Jack Oliver, grandmother Norma Bradford, Great-Grandmother ‘mawmaw’ Lucille Parsons and Great Grandfather Henry Parsons.
She is survived by her parents BJ and Teresa Oliver, sisters Chelsea Bradford and Maddy Oliver, brother Grant Oliver, Grandmother Sharon Oliver and husband Dennis, Grandfather Perry Bradford, Great Grandmother Francis Oliver, Boyfriend Dustin Ritter, Aunt Christie Scott and husband Jody, Uncle John Bradford and wife Lisa, Uncle Jessie Bradford and wife Jessica, Aunts Leslie Kotheimer and Jennifer Reechia, Cousins Nathan Scott, Jacob Bradford and Shiann Bradford.
If there was ever an echo in the mountains of Craig County, it was Monday evening. “She was such an encourager!”, “She was more than a friend!” “Bridgett always knew how to make things better!” “Bridgett was like our ‘mom’ in school, everyone went to her!” “Bridgett was always so upbeat and happy!” “Bridgett had drive, motivation, character and love!” There were so many compliments given with such true, heartfelt compassion.
And her story didn’t end in Craig County. Her college colleagues and teachers were just as impacted by her standard of ‘living’ life.
“As Bridgett’s preceptor in L&D last summer, I knew I had a lot to share. What I didn’t know was how much she had to give me. Her generosity of spirit was something she shared with everyone she came in contact with and I consider myself lucky to have been one of those people. Her fresh enthusiasm and love for the work that I hold dear, her cheerfulness and readiness to work hard, always searching for what more she could do was a beautiful example of unselfish compassion. Her curiosity and openness provided shared opportunities for learning, helping me stretch my knowledge to accommodate that bright, curious mind. I will honor her memory by remembering the example she set. May we all be so blessed.” Shara Wyatt shared on Facebook.
Mary Matthews, one of her BTEC professors added, “This is a true loss for anyone who knew this amazing young lady. She undoubtedly was going to be one of the finest nurses to ever be pinned. Bridgett was one of the absolute BEST students I had the honor of having in my classroom during the eight years I taught at BTEC. She left a lasting impression on me and I will forever remember her as one of my smartest and kindest students. She was incredible in so many ways and will be missed by a multitude of people, including myself.”
“I was introduced to Bridgett last year when she applied to the nurse extern program at LGMC,” Debra Burks Ray shared. “Her director from 5th floor convinced me to take on an additional extern, although our intended spots were filled.” Ray said that from Bridgett’s very first shift, she and the staff were impressed with her “bright and beautiful spirit, her eagerness to learn maternity care nursing, her “jump – in and help” attitude, and her gentle and professional manner with patients.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young nurse with a brighter and more promising future in nursing – she had found her calling, and was preparing to be the very best,” Ray added. “All who knew her are devastated to have her gone from our lives and my heart breaks for her family and all who love her.
Ray said she believed Bridgett exemplified the ‘caring’ that their profession is known for. “I was blessed to have had the opportunity to cross your path Sweet girl, you were a shining example to your classmates, your co-workers, your generation and our profession.”
Irvin R. Clark, Ed.D, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs wrote to the Radford University ‘family’ where Bridgett would be graduating from this May.
“It is with deep sadness that I share with you the tragic loss of one of our own. School of Nursing Director Tony Ramsey shared with me what a tremendous impact Bridgett made to the honors nursing program and how she was looking forward to a career where she could serve the needs of and help others. Please join me in keeping Bridgett’s family, friends, classmates and the Waldron faculty and staff in our thoughts and prayers as they cope with this difficult news.”
A vigil was held at the University on Sunday night, April 2, where over 200 of her fellow colleagues came to remember and honor Bridgett. Several commented that it just did not seem real to them.
“The future that she had ahead of her was bright,” said Megan Hebdon, who taught Bridgett. She added that she believed Bridgett was intelligent and commented that she was active.
Bridgett was going to graduate in 34 days, and she had been offered a position in the labor and delivery unit at Carillion. “That was her goal from the start, to help bring new life,” stated Sharla Cooper, Executive Director of the undergraduate program at the School of Nursing.
Still, at her leaving the earth, Bridgett continued her lifelong legacy of touching people. Her family all wore ‘DONATE’ pins. “She wanted to donate her organs,” her sister shared as she sweetly showed others the pin she wore. Beside Bridgett’s casket was the plaque that stated, “She chose to give the ‘Gift of Life’ through tissue donation so that the lives of others may be enhanced.” She continued to give life, even at the end of her own.
Though times will be difficult for the Oliver family, with the hundreds of friends and family, love will help to ease the pain. Still, B.J. and Teresa believe that one day they will see her again, and that is the hope that helps them to maintain peace.
“Thank you Lord for gracing our family with such a beautiful, loving, kind hearted soul for the last 21 years!” Teresa added to her Facebook page. “We love you Bridgett Oliver!”