WEST HARTFORD – – Richard “Dick ” Jackson, a clinical social worker who in 1969 founded The Bridge youth service agency here that has since helped hundreds of troubled teens and families, died Monday after a four-year battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 75 and lived in Rhode Island and Florida.

Jackson, a West Hartford resident for years, had also been director of social services for the Bloomfield school system, had a private practice offering family and marriage counseling and led nonprofit efforts to build affordable housing. He also pushed for alternative high schools and was a special assistant to the CEO of The Hartford, advising on improving corporate-community relations by getting involved in social service projects.

“He had a more liberal outlook on what businesses and leaders should be doing for the community,” Nan Streeter, a former state senator and West Hartford mayor from 1975 to 1981, said Wednesday. Jackson advocated for people in power to be socially conscious and get involved in tackling problems facing the poor, she said.

In an interview with The Courant in 1995, Jackson emphasized the importance of listening to people to understand their needs. In that interview, he gave advice for any organization trying to figure out how to help troubled teens – “talk to the kids on their turf with no agenda, no goals, no time frames … ask them what’s the problem. Ask them to find a solution.”

George Hastings, friends with Jackson since 1970 when Hastings began volunteering at The Bridge, said that Jackson was a very intelligent, outgoing person with a lot of interests, including putting together racehorse syndicates to own and train horses that raced at tracks along the East Coast.

“I last saw Dick about a year ago,” Hastings said. “He was quite sick with Lou Gehrig’s disease but he was absolutely upbeat, no ‘why me,’ no complaints. He was still going to the gym, even though he wasn’t supposed to. People helped him. It was worth it to him for the human contact.”

Longtime West Hartford Resident Richard “Dick” Jackson Dies; Founded The Bridge Youth Service Agency, By BILL LEUKHARDT, The Hartford Courant

August 13, 2009

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