Richard “Dick” Gardner, a longtime resident of Westchester and Malibu who served with the U.S. Marines during World War II, passed away July 12 in Westchester after an extended illness. He was 92.
Born in Fuzhou, China on Jan. 14, 1919, Gardner lived with his parents and grandparents in the mission compound founded by his grandfather, The Rev. Milton Gardner. At the age of 3, Gardner and his family moved to Claremont, Calif. to live with his grandfather, who had been appointed as a local judge.
In 1926, the family moved to Eagle Rock, where Gardner attended elementary, middle, and high school. Upon graduation from Eagle Rock High School in 1936, he attended college at the University of California-Berkeley where he worked his way through school as a cook at Oxford Hall Student Cooperative. Gardner competed in gymnastics at Berkeley, was the team captain, and fell just short of joining the U.S. Olympic team.
After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in business administration in 1940, he did a year of graduate work at Berkeley’s School of Social Work while managing Oxford Hall and working as a prison guard in Chino.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gardner joined the Marine Corps. In May 1942, he began his lifetime odyssey as a second lieutenant, specializing in field artillery. By the end of World War II, he had achieved the rank of captain. Gardner, whose love for the Marine Corps grew over the years, stayed in the Marine Corps Active and Inactive Reserve until his retirement in 1979 as a Lt. colonel.
After his return from World War II, he completed his master’s degree work in social work at the University of Southern California in 1948.
Gardner met his wife of 61 years, Frances J. Gunn Gardner, during their college years and they were married in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 1945, one week after his return from the Pacific War Theater.
In 1950, the couple settled in Westchester but later moved to Malibu in 1959, where they stayed until the 1993 Malibu fire destroyed their house. Deciding not to rebuild after the Malibu fire, they returned to their former Westchester home. The Gardners became active in the affairs of both Covenant Presbyterian Church and in the Y’s Men’s Club of the Westchester YMCA, which Gardner had co-founded in 1952.
As avid world travelers, the Gardners were able visit every continent on the globe.
Gardner was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Frances, in 2006. He is survived by their two sons, Gary and Lee.
A memorial service is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 30 at the Covenant Presbyterian Church, 6323 W. 80th St., Westchester. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that all memorial gifts be donated to Covenant Presbyterian Church.