Tom Franklin Bridgewater, age 73, passed away Friday, June 17, 2022 at his home surrounded by his family. He was born on August 27, 1948, the fourth child of Carl Eugene and Vivian Bridgewater. As a child, he grew up in Pittsburg and Arcadia, Kansas. Due to his dad dying at a young age, Tom began working at the early age of 16 on a drag line as an oiler. In his spare time, Tom enjoyed playing the guitar and singing, as well as, playing in a band. He and his cousin, Milton, even provided the music for the Hume Prom one year. After a few years, he got a job working for CB&K Ranch south of Rich Hill building levies. It was during this time, that he met and fell in love with Kathy West. After a whirlwind romance of just a few short months, they were married on August 30, 1969, and began their lives together residing in Rich Hill, Mo. To this union, three children were born, Thomas Joseph, Charles Jason, and Kathryn Bell. In 1980, Tom moved his family to Balltown on the Little Osage River four miles east of Metz. This is where many family memories were made. Tom enjoyed hunting, fishing on the river, raising a big garden, trap-shooting, and swimming with his children in ponds or the river across the road. Over the years, he and Kathy also enjoyed taking trips on their motorcycle, some of which included seeing Yellowstone National Park and Niagara Falls. Over the years, Tom held various jobs, including sandblasting and painting bridges, one of which was a seven-mile bridge in the Florida Keys, construction work as a machine operator, running a drag-line for 17 years at Bill’s Coal Company in Garland, Kansas, and working for the Missouri State Highway Department, from which he retired after 20+ years. After retirement, he worked part-time for the county as a road grader and started the Bates County Lawn and Garden Pulling Tractor Association. In 1995, Tom opened up and ran Bridgewater Bait & Tackle for five years, while still working for the highway department. Even though this business didn’t endure, the building did and became a beloved gathering place for Tom and his family. It is still referred to today as the ‘Bait Shop’. Tom was frequently found there cooking up a meal for a family gathering, smoking delicious meats, canning food from his garden, or tinkering with a new project. Tom lovingly opened up his building for many different events, but the most special time was the annual deer season festivities. Bridgewater’s Deer Camp was always kicked off with Tom’s famous mulligan stew and ended with deer and noodles. Breakfast was always ready and waiting when the morning hunt was over. (A famous saying of Tom’s when asked by his mom what he wanted for breakfast was “Eggs, tators, toast, and tomators!”) Tom was an excellent cook and loved trying out new recipes to share with family. He put a lot of hard work into making this tradition possible each year. It was precious time spent with his children, grandchildren, family, and friends, making memories to last a lifetime. Some of his grandchildren would say this time was better than Christmas! Tom was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Allen and Dave Bridgewater, sister Anna Robarts, and granddaughter Mary Kathryn Bridgewater. He is survived by his loving wife of nearly 53 years, Kathy, of the home; three children, Joe Bridgewater & wife Donya; Jason Bridgewater & wife Mendy; Kathryn Trammell & husband Scott, all of Rich Hill; ten grandchildren, Harley (Sara), Haidyn, Houston, Adam (Makenzie), Jasmine, Whitney, Clifton, Daniel, Thomas, and Jessica; four great-grandsons, Maverick, Teddy, Case, & Franklin; two sisters-in-law Linda Mumma and Donna West; nieces, nephews, cousins, and a host of friends. If you were a friend of Tom, you knew it. Before he passed, he asked Joe to tell all of his friends that he loved them.
Funeral services will be held Tuesday, June 21 at Rich Hill Christian Church at 10:00 a.m. with burial in Green Lawn Cemetery. The family will receive friends Monday from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Rich Hill Christian Church. The family suggests memorial contributions to the Tom Bridgewater Memorial Fund for the benefit of Rich Hill Sports Program in care of Heuser Funeral Home.