Bert Edward Ridgaway, 90, of Port Arthur, Texas slipped away unexpectedly while napping peacefully at his daughter’s home in Houston, Texas on December 26, 2012.
Bert was born November 19, 1922, in Cravens, Louisiana to Leslie William and Tenie (Hines) Ridgaway. He grew up in Beaver Creek, Louisiana and graduated from Pine Prairie High School in 1940. He was offered a scholarship to Louisiana State University, but he opted to forgo college and instead enlisted in the Navy in Beaumont, Texas in 1942.
Bert was a true patriot. For 20 years, he served his country faithfully and honorably in the United States Navy (Coxswain 1942-1946), and in the United States Army (CWO2 1946-1964). He served in World War II, the Korean War and the early Vietnam conflict.
In the Navy, he served in the Eighth Fleet in the Northwest Africa Campaign. Winning a number of awards for landing his assault boat (troop carrier) on the enemy-held island of Elba, Italy on 17 June 1944, and leading his unit into battle while under fire and passing through heavily mined waters. He was only 21 years old at the time.
In the Army, he served in the United States Army Corp of Engineers in the Mechanical Engineering section, mostly repairing and providing maintenance to heavy equipment. He often spoke of building bridges in Korea, only to have them blown up and then having to rebuild them again. In the non-war era, he received recognition for constructive thinking and the contribution of new ideas for the improvement of methods and equipment of the Seventh Army Corps of Engineers. Especially for modifications in repair methods which led to a more economical end products which was deemed extremely beneficial to the United States government.
His awards and commendations included:
Bronze Star Medal
Good Conduct Medal
European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with 5 Bronze Stars for Asiatic Pacific Duty
World War II Victory Medal
French Croix de Guerre with Silver Star.
Army Commendation Medal
It was in the Army that Bert met the love of his life. While recuperating from a broken ankle in a military hospital in Tokyo, Japan, he saw Setsuko while she was training to be a nurse. Since he could speak no Japanese and she could speak no English, he was unfortunately shipped back to his company without even knowing her name. As soon as he was able, he returned to Tokyo, and did everything he could to finally track her down. He courted her persistently, and with the aid of her older sister, received permission from her strict Japanese father for her hand in marriage, and also to take her away from Japan as they began their life together.
They were married for 53 years until her death in 2006. He was devastated by her loss, but carried on stoically as the strong man that he was. He is now reunited with his beloved Setsuko, and we find so much peace in that knowledge. In the early 1960’s, while stationed with the Army in Tokyo, they adopted a baby girl born to a Japanese girl and a deceased American Air Force pilot. Their family became complete.
After retiring from the military, he joined his cousin, Nugent Boyd Jr., in business, and became the Operations Manager of A-1 Rental in Port Arthur, Texas. He lived for a brief time in Orange, Texas before settling permanently in Port Arthur in 1965. He was a resident of Port Arthur for 47 years.
Bert Ridgaway was a good man. He married the love of his life, adopted a little girl and created a wonderful, loving family. He served his country courageously and meritoriously. He worked long and hard, and finally retired at the end of a second career. Bert was a quiet man. Unless you asked a magic question. Then he would light up and practically talk your ear off. You would never know this gentle, unassuming man was an aggressive battle leader. He was awarded many commendations. Bert was a kind and generous man. He tried to see the good in every situation. He never had an unkind word for anyone. He never raised his voice. He would go out of his way to lend a hand or money to everyone without question. Bert was a strong man. Maybe not so much physically strong, but strong in faith, morals and ethics. After accepting the Lord, he taught Sunday School and was a Deacon in his young adult years. The First Baptist Church of Port Arthur, and his church family there, were like his second home in later years. Bert was a honest and simple man. He lived a plain, unfussy life, and he liked it that way. He loved working with machines and hard labor and had a strong work ethic. But he also enjoyed reading and discussing current events. He loved a good debate on topical issues, and he was a definite conservative. Bert also loved good food and good chocolate! He didn’t have to be asked twice about either. And he loved his constant companion in his last days, his dog, Little Girl. Bert was a loved man. He will be missed very dearly by all who were fortunate enough to share their lives with him. Through our warmest memories we will cherish Bert for all he was and all he did for us, and we will find strength in his lasting, loving spirit.
He is preceded in death by his parents; his beloved wife, Setsuko Ridgaway; brothers, Clarence Ridgaway, and wife, Jane, and Dale Ridgaway; and sister, Nita Faye Baker and husband, Jimmy.
Those left to cherish his memory are his daughter, Cathy Civitello and husband, Dr. Andrew Civitello of Houston, Texas; cousins, Margie Hatton of Bridge City, Texas and Jeanne Owens of Lexington, Kentucky; sister-in-laws, Joyce Ridgaway of Winnie, Texas, and Kazuko Takeuchi of Fukuoka, Japan, and numerous nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. Also his dearly cherished friend, Geri Morvant and her family. And his adored dog, Little Girl.
Our love and heartfelt gratitude go to all those special people in Bert’s life who made it possible for him to live his final years independently. You all know who you were, and I won’t try to list everyone here for fear of accidentally leaving someone out. I ask God to especially bless each of you for your selfless devotion.
Funeral services with full military honors were held at 11:00 am, Saturday, December 29, 2012, at First Baptist Church in Port Arthur, Texas with the Reverend Kyle Morton officiating. Honorary Pallbearers were Justin Ridgaway, L.A. Ridgaway, Randy Ridgaway, Tim Ridgaway, Wade Ridgaway, Frank Hatton, Terrell Hatton, Aaron Champagne, Kenny Morvant, and Keith Morvant. A gathering of friends and family was held afterward in the church’s fellowship hall. Following cremation, Bert will be interred at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens/Claybar Cemetery, Orange, Texas. A special interment service will be held in the spring so that Bert and his beloved wife, Setsuko, may be eternally laid to rest together.
Tributes and words of condolence may be shared with the family at: email@example.com.
For those desiring, remembrances may be sent to: First Baptist Church, 5000 Gulfway Drive, Port Arthur, Texas 77642.
We little knew that morning
That God was going to call your name.
In life we loved you dearly,
In death we do the same.
It broke our hearts to lose you,
But you didn’t go alone,
For part of us went with you,
The day God called you home.
You left us peaceful memories.
Your love is still our guide,
And though we cannot see you,
You are always at our side.
Our family chain is broken,
And nothing seems the same,
But as God calls us one by one,
The chain will link again.
Farewell Bert Ridgaway, “Well done thou good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of thy Lord. Matthew 25:21”