Photo Album:
My First & Only Love

Submitted by Richard Sandford
September/October 2018

My wife, Bridget Heaney, was born on June 7, 1944. She was one of 10 children raised by a single mother in Cavan, Ireland. Her mother eventually moved to England (Newbury) in search of work, and it was in Newbury that I met Bridget. I was 23 and she was 19.

At the time, I was in the U.S. Air Force (U.S.A.F.) and stationed with the Strategic Air Command, at R.A.F. Greenham Common. I met Bridget one day in Victoria Park and we just started talking. I asked if I could take her out to dinner, and she said, “yes,” if I agreed to met her mother first, which I did.

Later her mother told me: “Bridget wants to marry you.” And I certainly wanted to marry her. And so we married in St. Joseph’s R.C. Church in Thatcham, England on July 31, 1963.

I promised Bridget’s mother that I would always look out for her daughter and keep her safe, and after we moved back to Harrison, New Jersey, where I found a job with a trucking company, I made sure Bridget went back to England to see her family every two or three years, which she looked forward to.

We had three children, Anna, Jean, and son Richard Jr. (Sadly, our daughter Jean passed away on November 21, 1993, age 29.)

Bridget wearing her favorite dress, which she had on at her funeral.

What Bridget remembered most about growing up in Ireland was that she was always cold, and so I took her to California on vacation, where she said she felt warm for the first time in her life. We visited Castle Air Force base, northwest of Merced, where I had been stationed during my time in the service, and we decided to stay in the area. I found work with Penske trucking company.

Bridget was my first and only love, and looking back now, I think of the courage she had to leave her family and come away to the United States with me. She passed away at home on Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016, in the evening. She was very ill at the end and she had dementia in the final months, but I made sure she well taken care of, and with the help of my son, Richard, we were able to keep her at home.

Bridget’s headstone features a “Claddagh” to mark her Irish birth.

In her final moments, Bridget was calling out the names of her brothers and sisters and her mother. On that last evening, I asked her if she would like a cup of tea, and she said, “Yes.” I was in the kitchen boiling the water when my son, Richard called out to me that she had slipped away. I miss Bridget very much and think of her every day. ♦

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Back row, left.   Evelyn (born 1914), Anne (1913), Bridie (1908), Michael (1911), Mary (1905) Marguerite (1909), John (1916). Front row, left: Frank (1918), Michael O’Donnell (father), Leila (1925), Patrick (1924), Genevieve (1923), Margaret (Doogan) O’Donnell (mother), Philip (1920).
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