Audrey Ann (Beeler) Bridges lived her life with passion.
She loved and cared for her husband of 68 years, Marvin, whom she called “my sweetie” through her final days. She was devoted to her large and far-flung family, each of whom could reliably expect a birthday card each year, and loved exchanging Christmas cards with friends and relatives. She dedicated more than 30 years to enriching the lives of countless high school students during her career with Springfield Public Schools, and relished every opportunity to travel, whether it was a summer vacation to Colorado, a weekend outing to St. Louis to see a Cardinals game or The Muny Opera, or chaperoning students to DECA conferences around the country. She savored the weekends she and Marvin spent at bluegrass festivals around the Ozarks, enjoyed researching their family genealogies and was an enthusiastic gardener and flower collector. Audrey embraced her life and the people in it fiercely.
Born Feb. 11, 1935, in Aurora, Mo., Audrey was the third of seven children born to Walter Jennings Beeler and Audrey Violet (Grisham) Beeler. She passed away Feb. 2, 2023, in Springfield, just days before her 88th birthday.
Audrey graduated high school in Houston, Mo., in 1953. During her junior year, she began dating her future husband, Marvin Keith Bridges, and on July 26, 1954 — during a 30-day leave from Marvin’s stint in the Navy — they were married at First Baptist Church in Houston. After their honeymoon, Marvin returned to the Naval Air Station in Alameda, Calif., and Audrey followed soon after. For the next two years, she worked at an insurance company in San Francisco while Marvin fulfilled his military obligations abroad. Not one to waste any opportunities, Audrey became close, life-long friends with one of her co-workers, Terry Abe, from whom Audrey learned firsthand the often tragic experiences of Japanese American families during World War II. The two women and their families corresponded and remained close ever since.
Upon Marvin’s honorable discharge from the Navy, he and Audrey returned to Missouri in 1956, where their only child, James Michael (“Mike”) Bridges, was born at Cabool at the end of that year. Soon after, the young family moved to St. Louis, where Marvin worked at McDonnell Aircraft Company. In 1959, they moved to Springfield, where Marvin enrolled at Southwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Missouri State University) under the G.I. Bill. While Marvin attended college and worked part time, Audrey helped support the family working at what was then called General Warehouse.
Once Marvin graduated in 1962 and began teaching industrial arts at Republic High School, he returned the favor and put Audrey through college. She, too, became a public school teacher and, from 1966 through 1996, taught at Hillcrest High School, Kickapoo High School, and what was then called Graff Vocational-Technical School (now part of OTC). Early in her teaching career, she taught business courses such as typing, shorthand and business machines. Later, she transitioned to teaching marketing and directing the cooperative education program at Hillcrest, which combined classroom-based education with practical work experience at area businesses. Along the way she earned a master’s degree from MSU and a specialist’s degree from Central Missouri State University. An avid reader with a deep appreciation for the written word, Audrey incorporated lessons on writing skills into almost all her classes. In her view, being able to compose a clear, well-written business letter and resume was invaluable to her students, regardless of career.
Audrey’s hard work on behalf of her students never seemed to diminish the time, energy and attention she had for her family. With the birth of her first grandchild, her role expanded from wife and mother to that of a devoted, adoring (and fun!) grandmother. James Amos was born in 1980, and Phillip Ryan was born in 1981, children of her son Mike’s first marriage. When Mike married Kelly Kathleen (Aufill) Bridges in 1993, she welcomed two granddaughters — Kay Diana and Sarah Lindsay — whom she embraced without reservation. In 1996, she delighted in the birth of Mike and Kelly’s daughter, Emilie Anne Grace. Audrey became a great-grandmother seven times over and, with each birth, discovered yet another cause to celebrate the richness of life.
Audrey is survived by her husband, Marvin; son Mike and his wife Kelly; five grandchildren and their families — Amos Bridges, wife Paulette Harvey and daughter Isla James; Kay Gates, husband Rick and children Madeline and Benjamin; Phil Bridges, wife Dana and children Cole and Lucy; Sarah Averett, husband Nathan and children Leona and Isabella; and Emilie Bridges. She is also survived by siblings and siblings by marriage Walter Beeler and wife Christianne; John Beeler and wife Marlys; Linda Keeney and husband M.B.; Sylvia Bridges; and Paulette Bridges; along with numerous nieces and nephews and their families.
Audrey was preceded in death by her parents and siblings David Beeler, Sue Casterline and Don Beeler.
Visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, at Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home, 1947 E. Seminole St. in Springfield, starting with a brief Celebration of Life ceremony led by the Rev. Micki Pulleyking.
A funeral service in Houston will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, at Evans Funeral Home, 224 S. Grand Ave. Services there and at the gravesite will be led by Pastor Bradley Wells, with burial at Pine Lawn Cemetery (also called Duke Cemetery).
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions in Audrey’s name to the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society.
Audrey Ann (Beeler) Bridges lived her life with passion.