Obituary of Irene Gardner
GARDNER - Irene K.
March 7, 2018. Beloved wife of
the late James P. Gardner; loving
mother of Karen (Gerald) Markott,
Joseph (Rose), Robert (Julia), David
(Christiane Bedard); Michael (Marina)
and the late James Gardner; sister of
the late Veronica Groff. Grandmother
of 17 grandchildren and many greatgrandchildren.
Also survived by many
nieces, nephews, cousins and dear
friends. The family will be present at
the JOHN E. ROBERTS FUNERAL
HOME (Amherst Chapel), 280 Grover
Cleveland Highway (at Bailey) on
Monday from 2-8 PM. A Mass of
Christian Burial will be celebrated
on Tuesday at 11 AM at St. Timothy
Church, 565 East Park Dr., Tonawanda,
NY 14150 (please assemble at
church). In lieu of flowers, memorial
contributions may be made to Catholic
Charities. Share online condolences at
Irene Gardner her story and her bridge
Irene was born in 1922 to Hungarian immigrant parents in a company house near the Tonawanda steel mill where her father worked. At birth, probably with a midwife in attendance, she was originally thought to be stillborn and was placed in a pan of water. Someone noticed her moving in the water and one might say she was born again.
Perhaps this was the source of her great love of God and the water.
We were raised in a family of 6 children with appreciation and respect of the outdoors. Irene never learned to drive a car but she loved fishing, boating, her walks by the water and watching the sunset from the corner of our street in Riverside.
Our mom always seemed an energetic woman and I believe that this stemmed from her great love of life, the Lord and the Blessed Mother. This may sound silly or sentimental to some but I believe it is this great gift of her spirituality- her connection to God -that allowed the miracle of our family to unfold and helped her during the tough times.
Like the time, our dad, her beloved Jim, was unable to work in the 1950s. The children are all still little, Dad was a World War II vet and like many, was affected from his wartime experience and needed some help. During that time, for a short period, the family was financially supported to a large extent by Catholic charities to which we are very grateful.
Forward to the 70s, my older sister, Karen, and three older brothers, Joe, Jim and Bob had married and moved out to start their own families- my younger brother Michael and David are at home. Almost an empty nest, Irene is getting active in waterfront planning and community groups. She enjoyed interacting with people and I think they appreciated her uplifting energy in spite of the level of difficulty and the setbacks that happened along the way to her dream. The dream to help shape the Buffalo waterfront for more pedestrian access and utilization for the little man -the fisherman, the hiker and biker-the anybody’s and nobody’s in this world. Irene was a kind and generous woman that opened her heart and door to many people. You never knew who you would find her chatting with around her dining room table. The pedestrian bridge that now bears her name across the New York State Thruway at Riverside Park is a fitting example of what one person can do with a lot of love, inspiration and drive. Early on, when she met with politicians to discuss the pedestrian bridge, after getting hundreds of signatures on a petition for the overpass-the politicians would agree, “ …yes it’s a great idea but where will we get the money? “
That did not stop her.
Regarding the bridge and her consistent effort, I used to call her, “the sand in the clam”- so the pearl could happen. And it did.
Her energy was not limited simply to the waterfront. In 1977, in our local neighborhood in northwest Buffalo, the Riverside Businessman’s Association voted her “Man of the Year” for the positive influence and leadership she gave to the group. I can’t say that my mother was an advocate for the feminist movement but she strongly believed that anyone can accomplish great things if they put in the effort and keep praying to God for guidance. She is a powerful example of what an individual-with no college education-can accomplish. In the early 70’s she is involved with community groups including some waterfront focus. In 1975 she was on the Open River Advisory Committee and they pointed out she was the only woman. In 1976 she was the chairman of the Waterfront Advisory Committee. In 1980 the Riverside Park pedestrian bridge was completed and she was honored by naming it after her. She also sought to share her love of God with the young people in the community and taught religious education for many years and in a 1984 was awarded the religious educator of the year by the Department of Catholic Education.
Irene was a writer, junior historian and community activist. She enjoyed writing letters, and would often clip newspaper articles, make notes and save them in numerous files. Individuals and sometimes groups would lend or give her historic waterfront related articles or documents. She gradually retired and in 1990 she and my dad downsized and moved to Kenmore. Her collection of materials went to various community groups and family members. Some of it has recently made it to the Erie County Public Library downtown Buffalo in the special collections department.
In these last years, my siblings and especially my brother Bob and his wife Julie have made great efforts to keep her comfortable. They have done a great job. Thank you so much.
Irene passed gently and peacefully after chatting with her nurse in the morning and in early afternoon, moved on- surrounded by her family that could be there. God bless you Mom, thanks for all you did.