Pam Dudding-Burch
Contributing writer

At the funeral, Bridgett’s 2013 high school classmates had a CCHS Rocket blue flower sent to the family. Positioned beside it was her award of ‘The Gift of Life’ where she had chosen to be an organ donor. (In the top right corner, you can see her picture that was scrolling on the overhead screen.)

Bridgett Oliver never fulfilled her dream of assisting in the delivery of a baby. Her legacy, however, will live on and individuals with that same heartfelt passion will also be able to pursue their own dream.

On March 31, 2017, Bridgett Oliver was ‘called home’ due to a tragic automobile accident, her mother, Teresa Oliver shared. Hundreds of family and friends flooded the funeral in her honor to show their love and appreciation.

Many agree with Bridgett’s parents, Teresa and BJ, that she was compassionate, caring and selfless. “This is clearly reflected in the outpouring of love we have been shown since she was called home,” Oliver shared. “So many, not only in our tightly knit community of Craig but throughout the entire Valley, have expressed to us how she positively touched their lives. We have been overwhelmed with the kindness and giving that has been shown our family.”

“This alone makes BJ and I very proud parents.” Oliver added. “In fact, of all the accomplishments Bridgett achieved during her brief time here, and there are many, the fact that she loved, and was loved by so many is possibly the greatest accomplishment anyone could achieve.”

Bridgett was attending Radford University and would have graduated in May as a Senior Honors Nursing Major student. She was 21-years-old and had already accepted a job at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. “She had a deep passion to become a labor and delivery nurse,” Joe Scartelli, the interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Radford University, said.

Oliver explained that Radford University contacted them about establishing a Memorial Scholarship in Bridgett’s honor. “It will be an endowment scholarship (meaning it will be there forever) but we have to fund raise 25,000,” she said. “My husband and I are committed to seeing that this will happen!”

Oliver shared that Bridgett was a great friend, fellow student and co-worker to many. “Our family was not the only ones devastated by her passing,” she said.

This type of respect and honor was shown when Scartelli addressed a letter to the entire Radford College campus. “Dear Highlander Family, Many of Bridgett’s friends, family members and faculty mentors have established The Bridgett J. Oliver Memorial Scholarship to honor her memory and support future students who share her passion for labor and delivery nursing.”

As Bridgett’s father William (BJ) said, “Since she can’t do her work and pursue her passion, this scholarship will offer support for another student who can.” Anthony R. Ramsey, Ph.D., FNP-C Director of the School of Nursing at RU, shared his thoughts. “As the director of the School of Nursing, I have the pleasure of interacting with many students and Bridgett was a model student who exemplified the caring nature of our nursing students and faculty.” He added that he believed that one of the best methods of honoring someone is to develop a scholarship in their name. Anthony has worked very closely with many of his colleagues across the campus to establish the scholarship.

“The Bridgett J. Oliver Memorial Scholarship will assist students to fulfill their dream of becoming a labor and delivery nurse for many years to come,” Ramsey said. “Radford University is a tight knit family of caring individuals and this is why Bridgett loved Radford so much.” 100 percent of proceeds go to the scholarship fund.

After the tragic accident, Facebook was overloaded with comments of how she touched the lives of so many in addition to pictures of Bridgett with her friends. She even touched lives of people she never met.

Stover Courtney is a nursing student at RU and said that she had not personally met Bridgett as she was a year ahead of her in the nursing program, but knew of her. “After attending the vigil and talking with other students, I feel I have gotten to know Bridgett very well,” she said. “It is clear to me the type of student and person she was.” She added that in hearing so many of her colleagues talk about Bridgett that “she was truly one of a kind.”

Courtney chose to work with a faculty member to share the scholarship web link on the go fund me page which she set up to help raise donations for Bridgett’s funeral expenses.

Courtney added that with Bridgett having such a passion for Labor and Delivery nursing that she couldn’t imagine a better way to honor her. “I wish I had the pleasure and honor of meeting her,” she said. “Even we never met, she inspires me to want to strive with nursing school and be the best nurse I that I can.”

“Bridgett was remarkable and it is hard to express in words the impact of a person’s life, and the grief and sadness that everyone has felt over this loss.” Sharla Cooper – DNP, NNP-BC and RN – shared. Cooper spoke about Bridgett at the vigil at RU, her funeral and at the Honors Academy Banquet. She was Bridgett’s faculty advisor for her honor’s capstone project as well as one of the faculty members who taught her.

Cooper explained that on the first day of OB class, Bridgett said she wanted to work in Labor and Delivery. “Before the class starts, we have students write a little bit about themselves, and in her script, January of 2016, Bridgett wrote that she chose nursing because she wanted to care for others.”

This was her story she shared. “I’m from Craig County, my family is close and I have excellent relationships with all of my siblings. I am a hard worker and take pride in all that I do and ‘I see my work as my signature’. I have a passion for helping people who need it the most. As a child, I always played with baby-dolls with my great grandmother who taught me that compassion, empathy and love are needed most in this world and these traits can make more of a difference than knowing every skill in the book. She also taught me that my studies always came first in life. I hope by combining my traits of compassion, empathy and love with my hard study skills I will make an excellent nurse one day, specifically an excellent labor and delivery nurse.”

Bridgett lost her grandmother when she was a senior in high school and Cooper shared what she wrote about the experience. “At the time, I thought this meant my life was over and that everything was messed up, but as it turned out, there is a time for everything. I now have her protecting me and watching over me through all of my struggles that I go through. This has helped me see death as a normal part of like and not a horrific thing. I am no longer scared of what is to come.”

Some of Bridgett’s projects included:

*An externship in L&D last summer

*An honors project titled “A Little Dose of Being Held Close: An Analysis of Skin to Skin Contact”

*Writing in an OB journal about helping to care for a mother who did not have a labor coach Bridgett also wrote about how important it was that this mother felt supported and didn’t feel alone. “I find so much joy in being there for a mother who is at her worst,” she said.

“I could say so many things about her. She was caring, smart, courageous, determined and wise beyond her years,” Cooper said. “So many students have come forward to say how much she helped them be successful in one way or another, as she tutored, encouraged and helped them in every possible way.”

“She said she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives by being a nurse,” Cooper explained. “It is so evident that she didn’t need to be a nurse to make a difference in the lives of others. She did it every day of her life.” And thus, the heartfelt reason for the RU Bridgett Memorial Scholarship Fund, where you may visit at the scholarship website.

“She said she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives by being a nurse,” Cooper explained. “It is so evident that she didn’t need to be a nurse to make a difference in the lives of others. She did it every day of her life.” And thus, the heartfelt reason for the RU Bridgett Memorial Scholarship Fund, where you may visit at the scholarship website.

Any questions may be directed at Jocelyn Stephens of RU, who is coordinating the contribution avenues for donations. Email: Office: (540) 831-5344 Cell: (540) 798-9724

People may also donate at the link to the online giving page which is Checks can be payable to Radford University Foundation Memo: Bridgett J. Oliver Memorial Scholarship – PO Box 6893, Radford, VA 24142

One may also donate on the giving page where Bridgett’s bio is. “We are using crowdfunding to help make this scholarship possible,” Stephens said. “The goal is 25,000 and so far we have 41 supporters and $3,324 raised.” Stephens has also communicated with Lewis-Gale and Roanoke Memorial hospitals, where both have shown interest it contributing to the scholarship.

“This scholarship will give our family and those who knew and loved her a way to keep her loving memory alive as it will be a permanent Radford scholarship in her name,” Bridgett’s parents shared. Their hopes are that this endowment fund will help an endless number of future nursing student achieve their goals of caring for others.

“We feel this is the most appropriate way to honor the life Bridgett lived,” Oliver said. “Through this scholarship she will not only live forever in our family’s hearts but the entire valley will feel the love she shared with them.”

It appears that Bridgett’s comment, “I see my work as my signature,” will be seen many years to come, not only in her diligent and heartfelt work ethic but in the lives of many more students to come.

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