‘Love on your babies.’ Central Ky. parents grieve for son who was hit, killed walking home

A 14-year-old boy who died after being hit by a vehicle while walking in Winchester last month had a lot of passions: He was headed to a national Rubik’s Cube competition, played violin, was active in the Civil Air Patrol and enjoyed acting, ventriloquism and taekwondo, his parents said.

Johnathan “Jeb” Bridgeman died April 29 after being hit by a vehicle at the intersection of Bypass Road and Redwing Drive.

For his 15th birthday on May 25, his parents said he had asked for a ventriloquist dummy and a particular study Bible.

“The most important thing to him in life was his faith,” said his father, Gregg Bridgeman.

He and his wife, Hallee Bridgeman, said police are still investigating the crash but that indications are Jeb was obeying traffic laws and walking on the shoulder of the road near the grass when he was hit from behind. Winchester police didn’t answer any questions about what they’ve found in the investigation, but they did confirm Wednesday morning it was still an active investigation.

“What we want is to know what happened,” Hallee Bridgeman said. “We just pray that the exposure to this makes people drive with their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.”

The couple said they had lived in Winchester until Jeb was 7 years old, then moved to Fort Knox. They moved back to Winchester just a few days before the incident, they said.

On the Saturday of the collision, Gregg Bridgeman, a veteran, said he was coming home after being away on National Guard duty. He stopped at an outlet mall and bought Jeb the new pair of Converse Chuck Taylor shoes he’d had his eye on.

When Gregg arrived home, he said they were unloading the car when Jeb asked for his new shoes.

“He said, ‘Oh, I need to break these in. I’m going to go to the store,’” Gregg Bridgeman recalled.

He said Jeb gave each of them a hug, they told him they loved him as they always did, and he headed to Walmart, where he bought a new watch and a bag of Doritos.

Hallee Bridgeman said she called him a while later and told him he needed to come home before it got dark, and Jeb said he’d be there in about 30 minutes. When 40 minutes had passed, she called his phone again.

This time, they said the phone was answered by a police detective who had them come to the scene, where Gregg Bridgeman identified his son’s body.

Gregg Bridgeman said the new shoes were found 60 feet away. Though many have searched, he said they still haven’t found the cross necklace Jeb wore.

Though they had only been back in town a few days, they said the community has wrapped its arms around them, including their faith community, which has been providing meals.

“They have really just stepped up,” Hallee Bridgeman said. “It’s been incredible.”

She is a novelist, and she said she has also been touched by the many messages they’ve received.

“We’ve had thousands of people reach out to us,” she said. “Every one of them: ‘We’re praying for you.’”

Jeb was the youngest of three children and was a good buddy to his big brother Scott, who is 16 and has autism, his parents said.

They said he was kind to others, and his mom said he often could be found at cubing tournaments “surrounded by all the little brothers and sisters there.”

In July, they said Jeb was set to compete in the CubingUSA national championship in Pittsburgh. Now, they’re hoping a friend will be able to help with getting a special cube in Jeb’s honor created that can be distributed to hospitalized children. It’s something he would have loved, they said.

“He was into so many things,” his father said. “He could make anything with a piece of felt and a poster board and a glue gun.”

Jeb was homeschooled, and his parents said that when he took an interest in something, he would focus on it until he’d perfected his skills.

“There was nothing he couldn’t master,” Gregg Bridgeman said.

Fellow cadets from the Civil Air Patrol provided an honor guard at Jeb’s memorial service at Fort Knox last week.

The Bridgemans hope to scatter his ashes at the Creation Museum, where he and his brother participated in science labs. Gregg Bridgeman said that at the last one, Jeb said, “I just love this place so much. I wish I could stay here forever.”

He said he’s not angry with the driver of the truck or with God, in whom he said he puts his trust.

“I’m mad that my son is not here,” he said. “It’s just not right that he’s gone.”

“Tell your children you love them every single time,” Hallee Bridgeman said. “It’s not a weird thing. It’s a wonderful thing. Just love on your babies.”

The Bridgeman family is mourning the loss of their youngest son Jeb, 14, who died after being hit by a vehicle in Winchester April 29.
The Bridgeman family is mourning the loss of their youngest son Jeb, 14, who died after being hit by a vehicle in Winchester April 29.

Reporter Chris Leach contributed to this story.