Who is Bridget Nesko ?
On November 28, 2022, Bridget (Flynn) Nesko BSN, RN died from the ravages of Ovarian Cancer at the age of 55. She sustained a tough and dangerous 17-month battle that included 21 separate chemotherapy treatments – each leaving her sicker and weaker, and each being less effective in fighting the cancer than the treatment before it.
Early signs of this cancer were present as much as six years prior to her diagnosis. They went undetected, until her illness reached a critical “Stage Three” level by February of 2021.
Bridget was an accomplished registered nurse, publisher, radio broadcaster, voice-over artist, educator, entrepreneur, community activist, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin and friend. She left behind a host of broken-hearted family (including her husband, friend and soulmate of 27 years), her son and two grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, cousins and relatives, as well as countless friends, former patients and professional associates.
Bridget was born the sixth and youngest child in a blue-collar working-class family from the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia – a section that in the 50’s through 70s hosted hard working, tightly knit families, but today is known mostly for its poverty, crime and heavy drug trafficking.
Bridget graduated from Ascension of Our Lord Elementary School and Little Flower High School in Philadelphia. Working hard to raise her son alone after leaving a highly troubled marriage, Bridget entered nursing school at a Philadelphia area college. There, she encountered harassment and discrimination at the hands of one female instructor who chose Bridget as her target because of what the instructor said was “her blue collar, white trash” Kensington background. The instructor manipulated fellow teachers and several students to participate in tarnishing Bridget’s reputation in class and on campus, making it impossible for her to continue her education under such hostile conditions.
A solid counterpuncher, Bridget quickly brought suit against the instructor and the University for personal and psychological harassment. Her attorney deposed the harassing instructor and her peers, as well as several members of the school’s administration. The depositions proved a pattern of harassment by the instructor and negligence on the part of the college’s administration for failing to take action to stop it. The college acted quickly – before trial – by firing virtually all of its administrative and teaching staff. Bridget did not pursue a financial settlement – she was completely satisfied with that outcome.
Soon after, Bridget remarried and relocated with her new husband Kevin and her little boy Robert to Virginia, where she attended a different college to achieve her childhood goal of becoming a nurse. While employed full-time and working to raise her son in the new Virginia environment, she earned her BSN RN degree and licensure (in Virginia and New Jersey) from George Mason University School of Nursing in Fairfax, Virginia. At graduation, Bridget was awarded the Kitty Parker Smith Leadership Award. After graduation, Bridget went on to work in heart and lung transplant with Inova Fairfax Hospital Heart and Lung Institute in Virginia. In healthcare, she also served as a Public Health Nurse with Fairfax County, Virginia, as a Nurse Educator in Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey, and as a member of the Clayton Borough (Gloucester County, NJ) Board of Health.
While in Virginia, Bridget also served briefly with U.S. Army Phycological Operations, and volunteered as an active member of the Bethesda – Chevy Chase Civil Air Patrol. She also served as Commissioner of Resources and Policies and on the Board of Directors of the Virginia Nurses Association District Eight, and on the George Mason University Alumni Association Board of Directors.
Volunteering to produce an informational video to promote her son’s Catholic elementary school in Arlington, Virginia, Bridget was asked to do the “voice over” for many of the production’s segments. That work brought her to the attention of an independent video producer in Washington, D.C. Because of her gentle but direct speaking voice (and her ability to hide her Philadelphia accent), Bridget was recruited to do a number of “voice-overs” on institutional videos, radio and local television commercials and a locally produced cartoon.
Concerned about the legislation’s possible impact on her nursing career, Bridget decided to become an expert about the 2010 Affordable Care Act. She read and memorized the full 900-plus page bill that was passed, conducted informational interviews with many of those who wrote and presented the bill in Congress (including Legislators and members of the White House staff), and discussed the impacts and consequences with dozens of national medical associations.
Her work came to the attention of a number of high-profile legal, media and political leaders. Soon, Bridget was asked to provide training and instructional workshops to leading Washington D.C. area decision-makers, including attorneys, lobbyists, fund-raisers and political organizers, members of Congress and their staff members, and Congressional candidates throughout the greater Washington, DC. metropolitan area in 2010 and 2012.
“Not bad for a blue-collar kid from Kensington“, she used to say to family, friends and collogues.
Having to return home to the greater Philadelphia area to care for her mother who was battling cancer (she passed away shortly after Bridget’s relocation), Bridget continued to work in the healthcare field as an instructor, and looked forward to returning to the bedside – doing what she loved best – taking care of people.
Living in her new southern New Jersey community, Bridget quickly discovered the need for fresh, independent and nonpartisan hyper-local community news coverage. In response, she founded, published, edited, and promoted the “Clayton Free Press” and “New Jersey Free Press“ monthly community newspapers, and the New Jersey Insider magazine. Despite COVID, and within six years of starting publication, Bridget grew the New Jersey Free Press into “the nation’s fastest growing community news organization” with over 6,000 email subscribers and readers, and more than 400 distribution points in the six-county area of southern New Jersey.
Before her illness, Bridget was preparing to take her newspaper statewide, and was receiving hundreds of requests from business owners, libraries, community organizations, houses of worship, colleges and universities, Police Departments, Prosecutor’s Offices and municipal officials – asking for the type of news coverage she was producing in South Jersey. Requests came in from as far north as Pompton Lakes, Upper Saddle River, Madison and Newark.
Bridget also created, produced and hosted a live radio program called “Taking Care of Business” which aired monthly on station 92.1 FM WVLT in Vineland, New Jersey (and streaming live on the internet and Facebook). She did so for more than four years. On the program, Bridget interviewed several personalities from the Vice Network television series “Dopesick Nation“, Rosemary Gibson, the award-winning author of the book “China Rx”, Gordon G. Chang, author of “The Coming Collapse of China”, South Jersey Doctors George Petruncio, M.D. and Nicholas DePace, M.D., as well as dozens of Delaware Valley area healthcare, business, community, government, religious, law enforcement and political leaders.
After her death in November 2022, it was announced that Bridget’s New Jersey Free Press media organization would be donated to the Nesko Community News Foundation, Inc. – a nonprofit organization founded to broaden the New Jersey community’s access to free, independent, and non-partisan hyper-local news coverage. It will be delivered statewide digitally (on-line) through the New Jersey Free Press community news service starting sometime in early 2024. The Foundation and its holdings will be overseen and directed by an all-volunteer Board of Trustees, overseen by her only son, Robert Nesko, with the help of her husband, Kevin.