Charles “Charlie” Jesse Bridgwater, 91, of Aitkin, passed away Saturday, January 11, 2020 in Riverwood Healthcare Center, Aitkin. He was born January 6, 1929 in Wealthwood to John and May (Plant) Bridgwater. Charlie was the fourth of ten children born to English immigrants on the family farm near Wealthwood at the start of the Great Depression. His father hitched a horse to the stoneboat, in thirty degree below zero weather, to bring back the neighborhood midwife who would attend his entry to the world. He was born in a one room house with no electricity or running water. By the time he was big enough to walk, he was assigned the chore of watering the cucumbers, carrying water in glass gallon milk jugs from a pond near the garden. By the time he was ten, he was doing field work with a horse and walking plow. Charlie attended a one-room country school through eighth grade. When he was in high school, he took on all the farm chores and field work single-handed due to his father’s extended illness, older brothers being off to the war, and younger brothers too small to be much help. That was a brutal time which took a severe toll on his scholarship. There was never any real money and times were tough, but thanks to a large garden, some milk cows, a few pigs, a flock of chickens and a team of work horses, the family never went hungry.
After graduating from Aitkin High School in 1947, he continued to work the farm with draft horses for six years before serving in the US Army from 1953-1956. After his Basic Training in Fort Riley, Kansas, he was stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. He served with the Battery “A” 4th Field Artillery BN (Mule Pack). As part of his Artillery Assignments, he was shoeing the 350 mules and 100 horses that made up the outfit. His unit was called in to fight forest fires near Pikes Peak, Colorado and was part of a movie production titled “The Looters”. He was also a horse orderly for the commanding officer on base. He was honorably discharged with the rank of E-4.
Upon returning home, Charlie worked the family farm for a short time and worked at Vern Tarr’s Feed Mill grinding, mixing and delivering feed to many local farmers, as well as doing farm chores for several neighbors. He then worked at Larry Quale’s Sinclair Gas Station followed by Arne Moore’s Direct Service Station, until he took on a lease for the Conoco Station located where the present-day Holiday stands. When Conoco ended their lease program, he was hired on as manager and continued in that capacity until Conoco sold the operation in 1983.
Charlie was united in marriage to Adella May Dyrkopp on August 26, 1961 in Glen. In 1963, he purchased the farm where he would live the rest of his life, initially raising Arabian horses and Charolais cattle. After a car crash and escalating health issues arose, Charlie retired from active farming to enjoy his small herd of Percheron Draft Horses. Later, after the Percherons had all gotten old and died one by one, he transferred his affection for animals to a stub tailed stray cat that he named Bobbie. He had a lifelong interest in birds of all kinds. He enjoyed visiting with people at cafes and coffee shops and reminiscing about the old days and people he had known. It was not uncommon for him to strike up a conversation with a total stranger and learn that he knew some of their relatives, neighbors or friends. Charlie was generous and eager to help anyone in need and will be dearly missed by all who knew him.
Charlie is preceded in death by his wife, Adella; his parents; brothers, William, Alfred, Horace, Trevor and Douglas; sister, Avis; sisters-in-law, Jackie Alberts, Marjory Peterson, Blanche Bridgwater, Grace Bridgwater, Edith Bridgwater and Beth Dyrkopp; brothers-in-law, Donald Dyrkopp and Chuck Peterson and Howard Westman and Alvin Richey.
Charlie is survived by his daughter, Mary Bridgwater of Aitkin; son, Dale (Melissa) Bridgwater of Fulton, New York; grandchild, Stephen James; great grandchild, Isabella James; brother, Owen (Peggy) of Wichita, Kansas; sisters, Beatrice Richey of Boring, Oregon and Gwendolyn Lapp of Becker; sister-in-law, Dana (David) Siskind of Minneapolis; brother-in-law, David Alberts of Pennsylvania; several nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
Services will be Friday, January 17 at 11 AM in Sorensen-Root-Thompson Funeral Home, Aitkin. Visitation will be 1 hour prior to the service at the funeral home. Military Honors will be provided by Aitkin American Legion Post #86 and Aitkin V.F.W. Post #1727. Interment will be in Bennettville Cemetery, Hazelton Township. To sign the guestbook online, go to: www.srtfuneral.com. Arrangements are with Sorensen-Root-Thompson Funeral and Cremation Service, Aitkin.
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