JOSEPH — The ashes of a 911 dispatcher and reserve Wallowa County deputy were delivered by police escort to his parents’ Joseph home Friday, March 12, and a special “last call” over the county’s 911 system was issued for Bret Bridges.
The 47-year-old Bridges died March 2 at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center after testing positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 25. He reportedly had underlying issues, according to a press release from the Oregon Health Authority.
The “last call” was to be issued at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
“It’s a very honorable thing to do in the 911 world,” said Brenda Micka, administrative services director for Wallowa County. “We’ve lost one of our own. It’s nice to do that, to do the ‘last call’ on the radio.”
On Friday, Sheriff Joel Fish and Deputy Jeff Baty went to Portland to retrieve Bridges’ ashes. They were joined by other local law enforcement and emergency vehicles once they arrived in the county for the escort to the home of David and Dolores Bridges.
“He was awesome,” Fish told the Bridges as he and Baty handed over the ashes.
“Bret has been a dispatcher and reserve deputy for about three years,” Fish said later. “He was a very devoted third-shift dispatcher. He never missed a day until this past episode. He didn’t want to take off. He didn’t want to be gone. He was very devoted to his position.”
Bridges lived in Wallowa County since September 2017.
“We invited him,” his father said. “He was living in Colorado at the time and had no family close to him and he accepted our invitation. It brought our family closer together.”
Having previously worked a “help desk” assisting people with computer problems in Colorado, he fit right into the 911 job.
“He came here and trained for the position after he arrived,” David Bridges said.
A regular graveyard shift dispatcher, it seemed he was “always trying to catch up on his sleep,” Bridges said.
His knowledge of the county came largely from his work with the 911 system.
“He didn’t get out into the community much,” Bridges said.
Bret was, however, a regular with a group of guys who played basketball at Joseph Charter School, Bridges said.
He was also an online gamer.
“We got quite an outpouring of sympathy from the online community,” David said.
In addition to his parents, Bret is survived by a brother in Michigan and a sister in California, as well as several nieces and nephews.
“He was an uncle to four nieces and nephews and by reports, a very good one,” David Bridges said.
He said he expects that when their daughter and other son are able to join the parents, together they’ll spread Bret’s ashes somewhere.
“I presume there’ll be a celebration of life, but that’ll be decided in the future,” David Bridges said.
He said he has no idea how his son contracted the virus. He used to regularly do shopping for his parents, but was always careful.
“He was conscientious about wearing a mask when out,” his father said.
He said Bret was first hospitalized at Wallowa Memorial Hospital for a week before being transferred to Tri-Cities for a week and then to Portland. He said it both was and was not a surprise that his son fell ill.
Bridges said he never was told by a medical professional what the “underlying conditions” that contributed to his son’s death were. To his knowledge, Bridges said, his son was healthy other than being overweight.
“Nothing surprises me in this pandemic,” David Bridges said. “It was a huge blow and a disappointment. It’s truly a terrible disease.”