Erma Bridgewater

Erma Bridgewater

CHAMPAIGN – Mrs. Erma Scott Bridgewater, who died Tuesday (April 2, 2013), was born Nov. 24, 1913, at the home of her paternal grandparents at 305 E. Tremont St., Champaign.

She was the daughter of Raymond Mac and Sarah Wilson Scott. Mrs. Bridgewater attended Lincoln School at the corner of State and Healey streets and graduated from Champaign Senior High School (now Edison Middle School). She is a 1937 graduate of the University of Illinois with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology and a minor in Psychology.

She married Cecil Bridgewater of Tuscola on Feb. 15, 1941, and raised three children, Cecil, Ronald and Cassandra.

After graduating from the UI, Mrs. Bridgewater wanted to prove she could find a professional job in Champaign. After some searching, her first job was working alongside her mother as a maid at Newman Hall on the UI campus.

In 1939 Mrs. Bridgewater was employed by the City of Champaign's Department of Recreation as the director of Douglass Center.

Mrs. Bridgewater stopped working to raise her children, and later returned to Douglass Center when her youngest child started school. She remained as director and assistant director of Douglass Center until 1963.

While at the Center, Mrs. Bridgewater touched the lives of numerous children as the girl's track and softball coach, sewing and arts and crafts teacher, mentor for the Douglass Center Drum Corps and Drill Team, chaperone for Skating Parties and Friday night dances. Throughout her life she was fondly remembered by those who benefited from her guidance during their formative years.

After leaving Douglass Center, Mrs. Bridgewater was employed as a proof reader for the Courier newspaper; an outreach worker at Frances Nelson Health Center; relocation officer for the Urban Renewal Program; and housing specialist for the Community Development Program.

She retired in 1984 after 24 years of service to the City of Champaign. Mrs. Bridgewater served on various boards and committees (Regional Planning Commission, Family Services of Champaign County, Head Start, Urban League, Community Chest, Council on Aging and the City of Champaign Housing Commission and Fair Housing Board).

She was a charter member of the local graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and a charter member of the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women. She received numerous awards including a mini park named in her honor on the corner of Bradley and Market; the Living Legend Award presented at the UIUC Black Reunion, Martin Luther King Day Award and the National Council of Negro Women.

She was a commencement speaker at the Black Graduation Ceremony at the University of Illinois in 2009. Mrs. Bridgewater was recognized not only through numerous awards and recognition, but also through personal testimony of those whose lives she touched during her decades of service to the community.

Mrs. Bridgewater loved swimming (five times a week until a month before her death), volunteering for the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, being a pen pal to grade school children in the Unit 4 School District, and a spiritual mentor to a young man in prison. She also loved listening to jazz (especially when her sons were playing) and encouraging young people to pursue their interest in music. Mrs. Bridgewater was a member of Bethel A.M.E. Church from the age 12 and a member of the Bethel Choir for over 81 years.

Mrs. Bridgewater leaves behind her three children, Cecil (Englewood, N.J), Ronald (Urbana) and Cassandra Woolfolk (Champaign); her niece, Loretta Scott Davis (Ohio), nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Mo' Betta Music, c/o Bridgewater/Sullivan Community Life Center, PO Box 555, Champaign, IL 61824.

Services to celebrate her life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 6, at the Bethel AM.E. Church with the Rev. Larry Lewis officiating. She will await the resurrection in Woodlawn Cemetery in Urbana. Visitation will be held from 6-8 p.m. Friday at the church

Professional services are being provided by Perry's Twin City Mortuary Service of Champaign.