Longtime Robertsdale resident, city employee, ‘The Bee Man,’ Rex Aldridge, dies at age 98

Rex Aldridge celebrates his 96th birthday surrounded by family in 2017 at the Robertsdale Senior Center.
Rex Aldridge celebrates his 96th birthday surrounded by family in 2017 at the Robertsdale Senior Center.

ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Central Baldwin Community is mourning the loss of longtime Robertsdale resident and city employee Reginald R. “Rex” Aldridge, who died Saturday, July 20. He was 98.

“Rex was a great asset to this city and worked for the city for many years under Mayor Josh Sellars,” said Robertsdale Mayor Charles Murphy. “He always did an excellent job assisting in building the city’s electrical infrastructure. He will be truly missed by all who knew him and our hearts go out to his family for their loss.”

Aldridge was born Feb. 22, 1921 in Chilton County, one of seven children born to Hoarce and Mesia Aldridge.

Aldridge worked on the farm in Chilton County until he was 17 years old, he recalled during an interview in 2017, just ahead of his 96th birthday. In 1938, he took a job with President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps, getting his first job as a utility lineman in 1940, earning $8 a week.

A veteran of World War II, he was drafted into the Army shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in November 1941. After basic training, he went to England, serving under General George S. Patton, participating in the invasion of France, storming the beach at Normandy and earning five Bronze Stars along the way.

Aldridge returned to Alabama in 1945, taking a job in Evergreen, married a girl from Fairhope, and followed his brother to Baldwin County, taking a job with REA, now known as Baldwin EMC.

After that, Aldridge went to work for the city of Robertsdale, where he would serve as a lineman for 32 years. He and his wife Edna raised two children.

Aldridge was a lifelong beekeeper, getting his first hive when he was 8 years old. He was known around Baldwin County as “The Bee Man, formed the Baldwin County Beekeepers Association and was instrumental in starting Robertsdale’s annual Honeybee Festival. He participated in monthly meetings at the PZK Hall in Robertsdale right until the time of his death.

“He attended the last meeting (July 1) before he passed,” said Silverhill beekeeper Bill Stephens. “You would be hard to find anyone with more knowledge and he was always willing to share that knowledge with others.”

Longtime member and former club officer Daryl Pichoff called Aldridge a friend and a mentor.

“He was not just a mentor to me, but with several members of the club,” Pichoff said. “When I first came to the club, he offered to mentor me right away. He was already in his 90s and was not able to do a lot of the physical work himself, but he would talk me through what he needed me to do and I would do it for him, while at the same time learning the craft for myself. He was passionate about bees and beekeeping. Everyone has their own way of keeping bees and Rex had his own way, but he was always willing to share that knowledge with others. He knew things about beekeeping that you just can’t teach. He knew things that just comes with years of doing it.”

After his retirement, Aldridge became a fixture at the Robertsdale Senior Center, always participating in activities, particularly those involving competitive games, such as Rook, checkers and particularly dominoes where he brought home numerous gold medals representing the center at the annual Alabama Masters Games.

“When I first started here, Mr. Rex would come in every day, playing dominoes for hours at a time,” said Senior Center volunteer Mary Williams. “His visits gradually went down to two or three days a week and then maybe only once a week, but his daughter said he would still be coming in every day if he could.

“Mr. Rex was the ultimate role model who lived life to the fullest and was always willing to give of himself whenever he could. He will be greatly missed by all those who knew him.”

Senior Center Director Amy Ochello described Aldridge as a “kind, intelligent gentleman.”

“We always looked forward to seeing him here at the center and he will be sadly missed,” she said.

Survivors include his wife of 72 years, Edna; a daughter, Linda (John) Ottogalli; son, Rusty (Dawn); and a brother, Gary. He was preceded in death by a son, Neil. He had a large extended family, including many grandchildren and great grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

He donated his body to the Medical Department at UAB and requested that there be no funeral services.

The family would like to thank Amedisys Home Health, Springhill Hospice, Dr. Porter, Lee Drugs, Robertsdale Senior Center and all of the friends who called and visited for their care and support.