RADM Herbert Bridge USNR (ret)
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Herbert "Herb" Marvin (b. 1925)
Herbert M. "Herb" Bridge has lived a full, well-traveled life as a successful businessman, a naval officer in two wars, and a Seattle civic leader and philanthropist whose boundless energies earned him the nickname, “Mr. Downtown.” Bridge joined the U.S. Navy shortly after the United States entered World War II, and during a 41-year career in the Navy and Naval Reserve, rose to the rank of rear admiral. He and his brother, Robert, took over their father’s Seattle jewelry store, Ben Bridge, and from it developed a chain of more than 70 stores, from Minnesota to Hawaii. The civic and philanthropic efforts of Bridge and his wife, Shirley (Selesnick) Bridge (1922-2008), have earned them many awards from local and national groups. The Seattle-King County Association of Realtors named Herb Bridge First Citizen for 2001.
When the United
States entered World War I in 1917, Ben Bridge was 21 and working for
Schwabacher & Bros., the already legendary Klondike Gold Rush
outfitter that had spawned several of early Seattle’s civic leaders.
Ben immediately volunteered for the U.S. Navy and served on a submarine
chaser in the Adriatic Sea as a chief petty officer radio electrician.
in Ben as a partner and, when ill health forced Silverman to move to
California in 1927, Ben bought him out and changed the firm’s name to
remembers an old-country upbringing: work, discipline, responsibility,
high expectations. “When I went into the Navy at 17, it was a vacation.
They couldn’t ... make it tougher than it was with my Dad.” At age 9,
he was up at 5 a.m. to sell the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the
Seattle-Kirkland ferry and later, when attending Franklin High School,
his route required a 3 a.m. start. Both he and brother Bob also worked
in their father’s store throughout high school. It was the 1930s
Depression at Franklin (“very few blacks, lots of Asians”), but if he
“liked to fight,” he remembers no anti-Semitism.
“vacation” started with boot camp at San Diego, followed by duty aboard
a destroyer escort in the Pacific theater. In 1943, he was one of 12
who applied for an officer’s training billet at the University of
Washington. Bridge recounted, “The skipper asked, ‘If you weren’t
selected, would you feel it was because you were a Jew?’ I was
naïve. I don’t remember what I said, but it was along the lines,
‘I was brought up to believe that in the U.S. Navy you did what you did
right and that’s what you were judged on. ’” It was the only time he
could remember a Semitic reference, in or out of the service.
He earned a
commission in 1945 and served on the escort carrier USS Breton
(CVE-23), again in the Pacific. The Breton was built by Seattle-Tacoma
Shipbuilding Corp., Tacoma, and commissioned on April 12, 1943.
discharged in 1946 a lieutenant, j.g. (junior grade). He then completed
his studies at the University of Washington, earning a liberal arts
degree in 1947 and finding time to earn the intramural senior
welterweight boxing title.
Business and Family
In 1948, Herb
married Shirley Selesnick, who had graduated from the University of
Washington magna cum laude to become one of the state’s earliest
registered female pharmacists. “I’m very proud of her. She’s one hell
of a pharmacist.” A son, Jonathan, was born in 1950 and Daniel
was born in 1954. Both attended Central Area schools, “self-motivated”
to do so, Ben said. “My wife and I are liberal Democrats, we believed
in color-blind, in equal rights, and the kids grew up that way.”
graduated from the University of Washington School of Law
having completed Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps and was
commissioned in 1972, continuing the family tradition. He saw duty in
Vietnam during the latter stages of the Vietnam War. Son Daniel
also attended the University of Washington, and became a Reformed rabbi.
When the Korean
War broke out in 1950, the U.S. Navy recalled Herb Bridge to duty and
he served until 1952, when he returned to the Naval Reserve. He was
promoted to rear admiral in 1976. He retired in 1983. Brother
Bob, who had graduated from the University of Washington in 1952 under
NROTC auspices, also did a Navy tour.
Along the way,
Herb Bridge learned watchmaking (“We were brought up ... to learn a
trade”) and gemology, becoming active in the American Gem
Society. The Bridges also helped found a watchmaking curriculum
at North Seattle Community College, one of only three in the United
States accredited by the Swiss watchmakers.
Bridge died in 1965; Ben Bridge died in 1974.
“something” was the Seattle Central Association, which later became the
Downtown Seattle Association, and involved itself in a range of
projects to maintain downtown vitality. Some of them were highly
controversial, such as the 1963 plan to raze Pike Place Market (dropped
in response to a campaign led by historic preservationists and market
advocates) and the 1968 Westlake Center project.
Bridge’s interests ranged beyond downtown and there apparently was no
civic or charitable request he wouldn’t undertake. In addition to
heading the Downtown Seattle Association and the Washington Athletic
Club, he was a founder of the Better Business Bureau and a Seattle
Rotary board member. He was devoted to United Way, and was also
instrumental in the effort to provide low-income housing through the
Seattle Housing Resources Group. He actively promoted the 1990 Goodwill
Games in Seattle to help mitigate Cold War tension between the United
States and the Soviet Union.
chairs the Puget Sound United Services Organization (USO), served on
the Seattle advisory board of the Navy League, chaired the American Gem
Society trustees, and has been involved with the American Legion,
Kiwanis, Shrine, and other Masonic orders. He has been active in Temple
de Hirsch Sinai, the American Jewish Committee, and has chaired the
Federated Jewish Fund in Seattle.
In 1986 Bridge
chaired the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, the first Jew to be
elected since Bailey Gatzert (1829-1893), who held the chair from 1894
to 1890. (Gatzert also served as mayor of Seattle. He was the first and
so far  only Jew so elected.)
however, attempts to do good turn bad. When maritime preservationists,
including Kay Bullitt (b. 1925), were trying to save the old
wood-hulled steam ferry San Mateo, Bridge prodded the Navy to allow
mooring it temporarily at the Naval Reserve facility on south Lake
Union. “That was one of the worst things that ever happened,” Bridge
said. Moorage was offered “for a short-term basis, a week or two. Two
years later, the old ferry is sinking and we had to exert legal
pressure to get the San Mateo out of there."
She was also
involved with Jewish Family Services and the League of Women Voters.
“She is amazing. ... She’s just a good human being,” Herb said in a
If all this
appears as excessive benevolence to some, it is for Jews much more.
“It’s tzedakah,” Herb Bridge said, by way of justification. “It’s
a Hebrew word meaning, ‘justice.’ ” One is expected to give back, but
it’s more than generosity, more of an obligation; like tithing, another
expectation for Jews.
regularly to political candidates, but actively participated in the
1972 and 1976 presidential bids of Senator Henry M. (“Scoop”) Jackson
(1912-1983), slogging through the Midwest working on the Jackson
campaign. Jackson was a Cold War hawk and strong supporter of Israel,
“which struck very responsive chords” for Bridge. In 1998, Bridge also
supported Initiative 688, increasing minimum wage from $4.90 to $5.70.
For fun, Bridge
wheels his bright yellow 2001 Gold Wing GL1800, Honda’s big
six-cylinder road cruiser. “It has cruise control, CD, it has
everything,” Bridge enthused.
Bridge’s newest venture was bringing the Dead Sea Scrolls to the
Seattle Center, an effort to “mitigate tension between religions ...
like the Goodwill Games and Russia.”
Shirley Bridge also have been awarded E. Donnall Thomas Medals of
Achievement by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Institute and have been
honored by, among others, the National Council of Christians and Jews,
the Museum of History and Industry, the YMCA, and Jewish National Fund.
died in June 2008. Herb Bridge lives in downtown Seattle.
This file made possible by: Seattle-King County
Association of Realtors