Home Iconic bar Gerald Desmond was remembered in a retirement ceremony for the iconic bridge that bears his name – Daily News

Gerald Desmond was remembered in a retirement ceremony for the iconic bridge that bears his name – Daily News

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  • The replacement bridge rises above the original Gerald Desmond Bridge, in the foreground, Saturday, May 7, 2002. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jerry Desmond pulls the gold-plated lock from his father's lock...

    Jerry Desmond removes the gold-plated bolt from his father’s bridge, the same bolt he tightened to open the bridge in 1968. Photo courtesy of the Port of Long Beach.

  • With the bridge that bears his father's name in the background,...

    With the bridge named after his father in the background, Gerry Desmond displays a gold bolt used in the original construction in 1968, Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • The disused Gerald Desmond Bridge, shown here in July 2020,...

    The disused Gerald Desmond Bridge, shown here in July 2020, lies in the shadow of its replacement. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • With the bridge that bears his father's name in the background,...

    With the bridge named after his father in the background, Gerry Desmond displays a gold bolt used in the original construction in 1968, Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • The replacement bridge towers over the original Gerald Desmond Bridge,...

    The replacement bridge towers over the original Gerald Desmond Bridge, pictured here on July 17, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • In the center, Gerry Desmond and the mayor of Long Beach, Robert Garcia...

    At center, Gerry Desmond and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia are joined by members of the Desmond family and city officials Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • With the bridge that bears their father's name in the background,...

    With the bridge named after their father in the background, Gerry Desmond, left, is joined by his sisters and Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia Saturday, May 7, 2022, at a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at Long Beach Harbor. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • With the bridge that bears his father's name in the background,...

    With the bridge named after his father in the background, Gerry Desmond delivers remarks Saturday, May 7, 2022, at a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Harbor Commission Vice President Sharon Weissman speaks on Saturday, May 15...

    Harbor Commission Vice Chair Sharon Weissman speaks Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Congressman Alan Lowenthal delivers remarks on Saturday, May 7, 2022,...

    Congressman Alan Lowenthal delivers remarks Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia addresses guests on Saturday, May 15...

    Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia addresses guests Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia addresses guests on Saturday, May 15...

    Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia addresses guests Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • The old Gerald Desmond Bridge, overshadowed by its replacement, is...

    The old Gerald Desmond Bridge, overshadowed by its replacement, is shown here on March 17, 2021. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

Jerry Desmond Jr. was an 18-year-old college student in 1968 when he tightened the final bolt – a gold-plated one – on the gleaming new bridge bearing his late father’s name.

On Saturday, nearly 54 years later, that same man, now a lawyer in his early seventies, held in his hand the same bolt he had taken from the rusting bridge that will soon be demolished.

“I remember that day coming down from UC Santa Barbara and tightening that bolt on the bridge in honor of my dad. It was quite an event, much like today,” Desmond said to cheers from 200 guests, including nearly 40 of the Desmond family from many areas outside of Long Beach, including the Alaska.

There were so many Desmonds in the audience that US Congressman Alan Lowenthal thanked them for inviting him to “the Desmond family reunion” which had everyone laughing.

The Gerald Desmond Bridge was named after a former Long Beach city attorney and councilman who helped secure funds to build the 5,134-foot-long bridge that connected Long Beach and Terminal Island. Desmond died of kidney cancer at the age of 48, four years before the opening of the bridge that bears his name.

The Desmond Bridge eventually wore out and was not high enough to accommodate today’s newer and larger freighters. A spectacular new bridge, the Long Beach International Gateway Bridge, was built to replace it. The new bridge, which opened to traffic in 2020, towered over the old Desmond Bridge in the background as speakers paid tribute to Gerald Desmond.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia called Desmond “a trailblazing city attorney and councilman who got the bridge built and left an incredible legacy.” Garcia said the bridge has been “a landmark of our city and an important part of our region’s infrastructure, a marvel, for over 50 years.”

Gerald Desmond (courtesy photo)
Gerald Desmond (courtesy photo)

Lowenthal said the meteoric growth of the Port of Long Beach into one of the busiest in the United States “would never have happened without the Desmond Bridge.” He praised the bridge for its smooth operation despite the immense increase in freight and vehicles using the bridge.

“So after more than 50 years of exemplary service, we say goodbye to this great old bridge,” Lowenthal said to loud applause.

In his remarks, Desmond said his father was “a tireless fighter for the city and upholding the rights and interests of the city and the port.” He said his family was “deeply honoured” when the bridge was named after his father, “and we are pleased to honor him once again at the bridge’s retirement ceremony.”

He said he remembered driving with his father on the old pontoon bridge which was replaced by the bridge named after his father. “Driving on that pontoon bridge was like taking a ride to Disneyland,” he said with a smile.

Desmond also wore a tie showing his father’s bridge. He said an artist painted the bridge and some of the paint was made into neckties, which were given to members of the Desmond family.

Who exactly was Gerald Edward Desmond?

The replacement bridge rises above the original Gerald Desmond Bridge, in the foreground, Saturday, May 7, 2002. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)
The replacement bridge rises above the original Gerald Desmond Bridge, in the foreground, Saturday, May 7, 2002. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

He and his family have deep roots in Long Beach.

He was born in Long Beach on April 12, 1915, the second oldest son of Walter Desmond, a Boston attorney who opened a law office in Long Beach in 1905. Walter Desmond became a Superior Court judge and president of the court from California. Appeal, second district of appeal.

Walter Desmond, Jr., brother of Gerald, was a lawyer and judge in Long Beach for nearly 60 years and president of the Long Beach Bar Association. He died in 2007.

Gerald E. Desmond is a graduate of Poly High School, Long Beach City College, and UC Berkeley. In 1932, he met his future wife, Virginia Slater, a graduate of Wilson High School, at the LBCC.

They married in 1937 and had five children, including a son who bears his name. Desmond worked his way through Harvard Law School and was called to the bar in 1941. After serving in the United States Navy during World War II, he started a private law practice. He became active in local government and served two terms on the Long Beach City Council before being elected to two terms as city attorney. He was also a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 1960.

With the bridge named after his father in the background, Gerry Desmond displays a gold bolt used in the original construction in 1968, Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach.  (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)
With the bridge named after his father in the background, Gerry Desmond displays a gold bolt used in the original construction in 1968, Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a retirement ceremony for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at the Port of Long Beach. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

He gained notoriety for playing a major role in securing Tideland’s oil funds, which helped pay for the bridge that would later bear his name. He also succeeded in banning oil drilling on the city’s beaches.

He died of cancer in 1964 while still a city attorney. His wife worked as a librarian at the Long Beach Public Library. She died in 2005 at age 91. Jerry Desmond followed in his father’s footsteps, working as an assistant Long Beach city attorney from 1974 to 1981. He is now a Santa Rosa attorney.

When the Desmond Bridge opened in 1968, Mayor Edwin Wade praised the span’s namesake. “May the Gerald Desmond Bridge serve this community as well as the man whose name it bears,” Wade said.

Sharon Weissman, vice president of the Long Beach Harbor Commission, said nearly all parts of the Desmond Bridge will be recycled during demolition. “So it will live on in many other port projects,” she said to applause.

The Desmond name will also live on if port officials officially approve a plan to name one of the scenic vantage points on the Gateway Bridge in his honor.

Jerry Desmond approves. “It would be great to keep my dad’s memory alive in some way,” he said.