This year marked a sad start with the loss of our dear friend and colleague, Gene Bridges, who passed away January 1 at the age of 62. National sales manager with Bandit Industries for the last 14 years of his 40-year career in tree care, Gene was a tremendous supporter of the tree care industry, touching many facets of the industry.
One of the last group collaborations Gene and I were involved with was the establishment of the Arborist Safety Training Institute (ASTI). A staunch advocate of equipment maintenance as a part of safety, Gene’s contributions were instrumental in the creation of TCIA’s Chipper Operator Specialist program, as well as a Train-the-Trainer Workshop coinciding with the release of “Chipper.” These initiatives led to the creation of ASTI as a means to create new training material, support safety trainers, provide grant funding for trainings and ensure training materials were available to the industry at a low cost.
This past April, a small group of industry friends came together to celebrate Gene’s life, gathering in Shelby, North Carolina, where Gene and his wife, Carolyn, made their home.
In the hustle of everyday life, we take things for granted, not taking the time to realize what is truly important and may be right in front of us. As I reflect, I can only wish to have the impact Gene had and to touch the lives of so many in such a positive way. A professional-level storyteller, a true Southern gentleman and an industry icon, Gene was quick with a smile, to crack a joke, to provide a listening ear or to jump in to lend a hand.
To me, this is what our tree care family is truly about. A close-knit group of everyday people serving a common cause and passion – coming together to support our friends and colleagues. Until next time, my friend!
Jason Showers, member, TCIA Board of Directors
Jason Showers is director of tree care products with Morbark, LLC, a 41-year TCIA corporate member company headquartered in Winn, Michigan. He also is the corporate member representative on TCIA’s Board of Directors. This column was excerpted from Showers’ Board of Directors column in TCIA’s member newsletter.
The positions Gene held with Bandit Industries, and before that with Wood/Chuck Chipper Corp., came with awesome responsibility. It would be understandable for one in his position to be distracted, even consumed, by such responsibility. That was not the case with Gene, who instead demonstrated unwavering commitment to helping arborists. Here are just a few examples. He was an engaged participant on the Z133 Committee, where I served with him for years. As Jason mentions, he was a driving force in the development of the chipper safety program and an eloquent spokesperson in the workshops supporting it. He even played golf with a cause, as was the case when he took part in the Robert A. Felix Memorial Golf Tournament year after year, raising funds to support students in arboriculture. Gene epitomized the ideals that fuel this magazine, TCIA and the people behind them.
Peter Gerstenberger, publisher