Melvin Lee Bridges, age 81, of Ottawa Hills, passed away at home Saturday, January 4, 2020. Melvin was born on February 7, 1938, in Toledo, Ohio, the only child of Dolly (Whitney) Powell and Booker Bridges. He graduated from Waite High School and after graduation went to work for the Berman Wine Company.
On April 21, 1961, Melvin was drafted to serve in the United States Army and was stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Georgia. He credits his service with teaching him respect and responsibility and was honorably discharged.
In 1962, at age 24, Melvin became an hourly employee in the stamping division at Willys Motors Inc., later the Kaiser Jeep Corporation in 1963. Melvin quickly advanced and was the first African American Supervisor at Jeep. Around 1974, Melvin was promoted to Superintendent of the Stamping Division and later became Executive Manager of the Stamping Division in 1991. As Executive Manager, Melvin was responsible for approximately 500 employees, including press operators and support, maintenance, and die shop personnel over three shifts.
The Stamping Division provided automotive parts for production of all vehicles made at the Jeep assembly facility and for vehicles manufactured at other assembly plants. During Melvin’s 40 year career, the Jeep brand was owned by six different entities. While Executive Manager of the Stamping Division, Melvin made it a point to know all of his employees by name, walking the floor regularly and greeting everyone with a handshake.
Melvin retired in 2001 from Jeep, then owned by Daimler Chrysler. Following his retirement, Melvin remained active by serving as a board member of the Jeep Country Federal Credit Union and as president of the Jeep Management Retiree Club where he served for more than 10 years, keeping members informed about their retirement benefits and changes in the corporation.
Melvin received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toledo where he pledge and was initiated into Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Beta Xi Chapter, on April 20, 1957. He remained a life-long member of Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc., Toledo Alumni Chapter, serving as a member of the Board of Directors, and formerly as the chapter’s Strategus. He was also a member of the Amazon Lodge No. 4, Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons, and the Maumee River Yacht Club.
Melvin loved taking his family out to dinner. While his son was in college, he and his wife Mary would take him to dinner every Sunday night. Melvin also loved to travel, especially anywhere with water. He and Mary went on many cruises including the Tom Joyner Cruise several times. In 2014, Melvin treated the whole family to a Disney Cruise for Christmas. It was the best Christmas ever!
Melvin was an extremely generous husband, father, and friend and his family will miss him every day.
Melvin was predeceased by his mother and father. He is survived by his wife, Mary J. Bridges, his son, Jonathan L. Bridges (Angelita), and grandchildren Donavan L. and Olivia.