Celebrating the Life of Bridget Dawson

Bridget Dawson was born Mary Bridget Seip on November 3, 1957 in Sigourney, Iowa, and is survived by her three younger brothers Terry, Cole, and Shawn. She lost her father Sandy many years ago and her mother, Joyce, suffers from advanced dementia. She raised two phenomenal children, Whitney (26) and Conor (23), who share all of the many qualities that made Bridget such a wonderful person. Their partners, Phil and Christine, respectively, have been amazingly compassionate in helping us through the tragedy of Bridget’s loss on July 14, 2016.

While in graduate school in Tucson, Arizona, I saw a woman running down the road at a fast pace and stopped my bike to tell her that she looked great. Though that was weird, she said thanks. About a year later, a mutual running friend introduced me, Scott, to that same woman, who turned out to be Bridget. We shared a love for running, and our first marathon finish-times were within a minute of each other. After living together for several years, we were married in Tucson in 1984. I drug her to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for my first academic job, where we lasted exactly one year before fleeing to Portland, Oregon for 29 more. We spent the last two years together in San Luis Obispo, California, where Bridget could train year-round and loved that every month seemed like summer.

Bridget ran track and cross country through all four years at Iowa State University and was All American in cross country. ISU was a powerhouse, winning nationals from 1975 to 1978. As Bridget faced more injuries, she began to pursue the triathlon, finishing her first race in 1984. True to her nature, Bridget evolved as a triathlete right before my eyes. The first time we went out on a bike ride, she had to walk up a hill, and she would swim a third longer in races because she zigzagged back and forth. By the late 1980s, she was a professional triathlete during the years of the Bud Light Olympic series.

Bridget took a break from competing when Whitney and Conor arrived, starting a Little Gym franchise in Lake Grove, Oregon, which she sold 11 years later. She persevered through many struggles to build a successful business, and Whitney and Conor became gym rats. When Whitney’s swim coach made the team compete in an annual triathlon, Bridget began to race again. But, unlike before, rather than having huge expectations for her performance, she said she would “race herself into shape” and became totally comfortable with doing her best, no matter the outcome. Only several years later, I went with her to Hagg Lake outside Portland for US Nationals after I had just returned from an international trip. As I sat by the finish in a stupor, I was stunned to see her finish first in her age group.

One of our greatest experiences was traveling to Auckland, New Zealand for World Championships in 2012 to see Whitney finish with a solid performance and Bridget win her age group in the world. She won her age group in the US for Olympic Distance again in 2015 and competed at world championships many times. She also won her age group for US Duathlon Championships from 2013 to 2016. She was always a great runner, but with time and determination, became a great swimmer and cyclist, too.

Bridget loved to help new triathletes develop and compete in races, and she made many close friendships—particularly through her involvement in the MAC Club. Her friends frequently described her “gentle determination.” She had an army of chiropractors (Justin, Sandy), masseuses (DJ), acupuncturists, and others who kept her healthy. Less than a week before her death, she won her age group at Ironman’s classic Vineman 70.3 in Windsor, California, and set a personal record. Only several weeks prior, Bridget and I had a wonderful weekend with Conor, Christine, and Whitney in Bend, Oregon, where she won her age group for US Duathlon Championships. For Bridget, doing a major race and spending the weekend with her kids, and friends like Ann, Karen, and Eric, was what life was all about. She was recently being coached by Dave Ciaverella and was totally on top of her game. She planned to do her first Ironman next year, with a goal to race in Kona, Hawaii, where she would compete as a 60-year-old. 

In recent years, serving as a nanny satisfied Bridget’s intense love for children. She treasured her time with Kristin and Matt’s twins and numerous other toddlers. Bridget also loved IPAs and took huge pride in her children’s professional involvement in the industry, particularly Conor’s growing skills as a craft brewer and Whitney’s role in helping to write a book on the business of craft brewing. She loved our crazy dog Dukie who was her pal during my frequent travels.  Like Velcro, Dukie followed Bridget everywhere in the house and would sit by the door waiting for her to return when she was gone.

Whitney, Conor, and I have been humbled and comforted by the outpouring of support from Bridget’s athletic friends, the communities at Portland State and Cal Poly, and our many other friends and family. 

- Scott Dawson

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Scholarship Fund

A world-class triathlete, mother, and friend, Bridget inspired countless athletes and served as a role model to many. Find out how you can continue her legacy.