Linda Bridges, RIP

by Jack Fowler

Our colleague, who worked at National Review for over four decades, including as Managing Editor, Senior Editor, and Editor-at-Large, and as a personal assistant to William F. Buckley Jr., passed away this evening at Calvary Hospital in The Bronx, after a nine-month battle with esophageal cancer. She was 67. Her cousin Gail Dow wrote the following obituary:

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Linda Kay Bridges entered this world on April 25, 1949 in Los Angeles, California, the first of two children born to Beulah Lorene (Stromsmoe) and Roy Gordon Bridges. She was a precocious child — an early indication of the high intelligence she exhibited throughout her education, career, and life. Although Linda was genetically only half Norwegian, she was heavily influenced by her maternal grandmother, Gena Sophia (Brekke) Stromsmoe, who lived with the Bridges family until her death in 1977 at age 91. Linda learned early on the pleasures of baking and eating Norwegian foods, especially lefse and pastries. It was a taste she savored her entire life.

As a youth, Linda was a horse-lover and rider, and the proud owner of two horses: Play Girl, which she described as “a palomino of unbeatable color,” and Princess. Her brother, Don, suspects that the family’s decision to move from Pico Rivera to a new home with acreage in La Puente, California, was heavily influenced by her desire to keep her own horses in that locale, rather than just board them there.

Linda was also an accomplished pianist, and a life-long devotee of classical music, including opera and ballet. This was a love she shared with her long-time friend and roommate, Alice V. Manning. Other passions they shared were travel — including exotic trips on the Orient Express, skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, and annual ski treks to the mountains of Vermont. Perhaps skiing was not such a stretch for this southern California native: Linda’s Norwegian ancestry is rife with ski-makers and cross-country racers. Indeed, the ancestral Brekke home in Norway is Morgedal, in Telemark province — a small mountain town that Norway has christened “The Birthplace of Modern Skiing.”

After schooling at Mary Miller Junior High School (where she studied Latin — a language she adored), she went on to graduate with honors from El Monte High School, then matriculated at the University of Southern California, from which she graduated summa cum laude in 1970 with a major in English Literature and a minor in French. While a junior in college, she dared write to National Review to point out and quibble with what she considered to be a grammatical error that had been used repeatedly in the magazine. Her letter intrigued none other than William F. Buckley himself, who responded to her letter, requesting that she send additional samples of her writing. She did, and was offered a position as a summer assistant. He so approved of her style, her extensive vocabulary and inveterate skill at word-smithing, and her content (Linda was a life-long conservative) that he quickly offered her a job at the magazine upon her graduation. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Linda moved to New York City immediately upon graduation from USC, and entered the employ of National Review as a contributing writer/journalist. Over the years, she rose through the ranks to Senior Editor, and finally to Editor-at-Large at the magazine. She also served as a personal editor for her mentor and father-figure, William F. Buckley, from 2004 until his death in 2008, organizing and preparing for publication his many writings and memoirs. Among the books she authored over the years were The Art of Persuasion: A National Review Rhetoric for Writers; Strictly Right: William F. Buckley and the American Conservative Movement; and Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations — A William F. Buckley Jr. Omnibus.

The most important thing to which Bill introduced Linda was religion. Although she came to a realization of Christian faith well into her adulthood, she embraced it with fervor. She was an active member of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church in midtown Manhattan, served diligently on the church council and call committee, and participated fully in its programs and ministry.

Linda was a member of several august groups, including Phi Beta Kappa, The Philadelphia Society, the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and The Anglican Society.

In addition to her parents, Linda was predeceased by her friend and room-mate, Alice V. Manning. She is survived by her brother, Donald W. Bridges, of La Puente, Calif. Her extended family is most grateful for the loving care of her many friends at St. Mary the Virgin, particularly Michael Merenda, Barbara Klett, and Curate James Ross Smith; and for the concern and support of her colleagues at National Review.

Memorials may be made in her memory to St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church, 145 West 46th Street, New York, NY 10036.

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