17 February, 1927 – 16 November, 2020
Johnnie “Leon” Bridges, who lived life with a jovial smile, passed away on November 16, 2020 in Memphis at age 93. He was born February 17, 1927 in Pleasant Hill, Louisiana during a tornado. Growing up, Leon developed a keen sense of humor that often made him the life of any party or occasion.
A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, Leon is survived by his daughter, Elizabeth (Lawrence) Kokajko, his son, John (Nancy) Bridges, four grandchildren: Ryan (Hillary) Kokajko, Lauren (Naveen) Kokajko, Kelsey Bridges, Marissa Bridges, and three great-grandchildren. He also leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends who affectionately referred to him as “Uncle Leon.”
He was predeceased by the love of his life and wife of 50 years, Elizabeth “Betty” Bridges, his siblings, Robert Bridges and Margaret Cash, and his parents, Bland and Margaret (McGowen) Bridges.
During World War II, Leon left high school as a teen to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps for a brief time until the war’s end. Afterwards, he returned home and completed his senior year, graduating from South Side High School. Leon was later employed by Schering-Plough as a union electrician for several decades until his retirement. He and his late wife, Betty, spent many subsequent years traveling the country, collecting Southwestern and Native American jewelry, and visiting loved ones.
An avid outdoorsman, Leon enjoyed camping, gardening, fishing, hunting deer, and shooting wild turkey in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Leon was widely known to add candid wisecracks to any conversation or to simply break the ice. Well into his silver-haired 80s, Leon jested servers to card him when ordering wine, just in case he was not “of age.” And as a set-up, whenever people asked how old he was, Leon would instinctively reply, “I can’t remember, it changes every year!”
At family gatherings, he often took the side of a child if he or she was being chided by a parent for mild antics like not eating vegetables or begging to play more games than allowed. Leon would mischievously console (and empower) upset kids with his classic mantra, “You’ve got rights,” much to the chagrin of their parents.
Always funny, and occasionally true, these Leonisms magnetically united friends, family, and strangers to remind us all to appreciate life and not to take ourselves too seriously.
A graveside service and burial will be held at New Bethlehem Presbyterian Church Cemetery, 3850 Church Road, Horn Lake, MS 38637 on Saturday, November 21, 2020 beginning at 10:00 a.m.
Online condolences may be offered through www.memphisfuneralpoplar.com
- Elizabeth (Lawrence) Kokajko, Daughter
- John (Nancy) Bridges, Son
- Ryan (Hillary) Kokajko, Grandchild
- Lauren (Naveen) Kokajko, Grandchild
- Kelsey Bridges, Grandchild
- Marissa Bridges, Grandchild
- Three (3), Great Grandchildren
- Elizabeth "Betty" Bridges, Wife of 50 years (deceased)
- Robert Bridges, Brother (deceased)
- Margaret Cash, Sister (deceased)
- Bland and Margaret (McGowen) Bridges, Parents (deceased)
- He also leaves behind a host of nieces, nephews, relatives, and friends who affectionately referred to him as “Uncle Leon.”
Saturday, 21 November , 2020
20 November 2020
Betty and I worked at P@G in the early '50s. When Jim and I married in 1955, she and Leon came to our wedding and to the airport to see us off on our trip. While friends and relatives were tossing rice at us, Leon slipped around and poured half a box of rice down a rolled up magazine in Jim's raincoat pocket. The other half went in his umbrella. 2 or 3 days later in New Orleans it rained. When Jim put up his umbrella to shield us from the downpour, we got a shower of rice and had a big laugh. Later we moved to St Louis and lost touch but never forgot the fun and friendship we had with Leon and Betty. Sincere condolences to the family.
19 November 2020
Leon was a very nice and kind person. His jovial nature put people at ease to converse with him even for the first time. He was affectionate, loving, and caring. We would miss him.
Our heartfelt condolences to his breaving family. Let time heal his loss. Let fond memories of Leon live with them.
N Mullai & N Murugesan
19 November 2020
I met Leon as Uncle Leon & he was the highlight to visits I had at my sisters home. While at an Eagle Scout Ceremony I witnessed Leon nicely place a cookie in a napkin & gently place it in the front pocket of his shirt I asked him “Uncle Leon why are you keeping that cookie? There’s more ya know”! He smiled childishly & replied “I’m saving it for a bedtime snack!” As the day went on my daughter & I would playfully stand next to him & try to get his cookie. We all had tons of giggles over it. He left back for home shortly after our visit & about a week later my daughter received a letter from Uncle Leon. To our joy, laughter & surprise there was that cookie he placed ever so nicely in his front pocket along with a silly note that made our year. His smile & laughter will forever be in our hearts & missed. Thank you God for sharing your angel Uncle Leon with us.
19 November 2020
He was a perfect neighbor, always ready to lend a helping hand. My two fur babies also missed him when we moved. They never barked when they saw him coming over, but waited to greet him with wagging tails to get their belly rubs.