Meet an Old School Eagle Scout

East Moline to honor scout with "Gaylord Bridge Day"

By PEGGY CASSIDY
|  Friday, Feb 6, 2009  |  Updated 3:18 PM CDT
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Meet an Old School Eagle Scout

Bridge achieved the Scouts' highest rank in 1931.

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There's a newly-honored hometown hero living at Park Vista Retirement Living in East Moline, where the mayor of the town has named Feb. 10 as Gaylord Bridge Day.

It's not Bridge's first honor.  He's been recognized before, like 78 years ago when he received the Boy Scouts of America's top honor as Eagle Scout while a member of Scout Troop #28.

On Monday, the City Council of East Moline had their regular meeting at the retirement home where Bridge lives so he could accept their honor in person. The gesture is meant to recognize Bridge as the oldest living Eagle Scout in Rock Island County, and perhaps the oldest Eagle Scout alive in the country, but the 96-year-old seemed satisfied with the honor as it was presented.

It was 1931 when Bridge received a "real eagle's claw" as part of his elevation to Eagle Scout. In his scouting days, real eagle claws were given to scouts when they achieved the ultimate honor.

Bridge also earned 42 merit badges as a scout -- one for walking to Geneseo, Ill., from Moline. 

"It was a mighty hot day," the 96 year old recently recalled. "Seven started and three finished." Bridge was one of the survivors of the hike.

The Quad-Cities Dispatch reported that he also hiked daily as he and his brother delivered 150 copies of the Moline Dispatch for $2.25 a week.

Dispatch writer John Marx, who met with Bridge for 75 minutes last week, said the Eagle Scout thing, while impressive, is only a slice of who Gaylor Bridge really is.

"There's his side-splitting sense of humor," Marx said, adding that Bridge is the father of six, grandfather to 13 and great-grandfather to 17.  He's proud of his family, Marx said, and it shows.

He also served in the United States Navy during World War II and, upon returning, worked three jobs to support his growing family. 

He retired from Rock Island's Farmall Tractor Plant after 35 years.  

The Dispatch reporter was less taken with Bridge's lifelong affection for the Chicago Cubs. He loves Ron Santo and Ernie Banks is his favorite Cub.

He's not much of a fan of Lou Piniella.

"He needs to get off his butt and do something," he told the Dispatch.

Bridge is also a Master Gardner who grew vegetables which he donated during the Great Depression and flowers which he gives to people today.

"I love flowers," he told Marx. "I can tell you how many different kinds of orchids there are and that they're hard to take care of.  I think that stuff keeps me young."

Apparently, something does.

His daughter-in-law, Judy Bridge, said Gaylord was moved by the events of Monday night, particularly the standing ovation for a lifetime of adherence to the Scout Law, "To be physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."

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