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Fredericksburg native Pamela Bridgewater is America's person to see in Ghana
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She talked about her youth and the many role models she had in Fredericksburg who "made us kids proud and gave us an opportunity to grow, who gave us confidence and a sense of giving back."
Most important were her mother; her grandfather B.H. Hester, who pastored Shiloh Baptist Church (Old Site) for 40 years; and her grandmother Blanche Hester, who called her Bridgewater "my angel."
Bridgewater said the Baptist Training Union was an important part of her younger days, as were teachers such as William Wright, Gladys Todd, Marguerite Young, Janie Pratt, Johnny Johnson, and Margaret Whylie. Nell Clark taught her piano.
From Fredericksburg, Bridgewater went on to Virginia State University, graduate school, a few years of college teaching and then the U.S. Foreign Service.
She returns home a few times a year to check on her mother and see old friends.
"Fredericksburg, that's where they really jump on me," she laughed. "Schools, churches, clubs, somehow they all know when I'm home. Everybody wants me to give a talk, but even if I'm tired I make an effort to go out." she said.
In May, she mixed time with her mother among consultations at the State Department in Washington, delivering a commencement address at Virginia State, and receiving an honorary degree from Morgan State University.
She also saw her mom in June when she flew to New York City to receive an award from the African Development Foundation.
For a few days in Manhattan, she said she was just Pamela Bridgewater, private citizen. Nobody knew who she was. No one asked her to make a speech. No delegations came calling.
She bought two new pairs of Nikes for her daily runs. She said she was "very, very disciplined" when she shopped on Fifth Avenue.
With no cinemas in Ghana, she couldn't wait to go to the movies. She saw two: "La Vie en Rose" and "Once."
She loved the former, a film about Edith Piaf, but paid no attention to the subtitles. She understands and speaks French with ease.
She knew of a little restaurant near Grand Central Station. It serves real blueberry pancakes like her grandmother used to make back home. She ate there twice.
She called her Mets' friends. They invited her to the team's interleague game at Yankee Stadium.
"I don't consider myself any kind of celebrity," she said.
But the ushers knew she was coming. She said she liked it when they said, "Good evening, ambassador. Nice to see you, ambassador."
She found herself in a box seat on the first-base line next to film director Spike Lee. She grabbed her cell phone and made a call to Fredericksburg.
"Mama," she said, "you're not going to believe who I'm sitting next to."Frank Delano: 804/333-3834