Charles W. Gardner Jr.

Charlie Gardner celebrates his 84th birthday.

ALTAMONT — Still waters run deep. Charlie Gardner was a quiet man who had deep commitments. He helped provide for his family with his fishing and hunting as a boy, he served his country in the Army, he married a woman with whom he was deeply in love and together they raised a family tending to their children and yard with care and constancy.

Charles W. Gardner Jr. died on Friday, March 29, 2019. He was 84.

“He could be quiet and reserved but he was instantly helpful and generous,” said his brother, James. E. Gardner.

“And he had a wonderful smile,” his brother went on. “I won’t forget that. He smiled easily, lit right up.”

Born in Albany on May 18, 1934, Charles Jr. was the oldest of seven children raised by the late Charles and Lillian (née Amsler) Gardner Sr. His father worked at First Prize Tobin Packing in Albany, operating the smoke houses while his mother was a homemaker.

“I idolized Charlie,” said his brother. “He was the big brother; we were always friendly competitive.”

When the boys were very young, they lived at Osborne Corners and then the Gardner family moved to Siver Road off of Willow Street in Guilderland — “back when it was very rural,” said James Gardner.

“We learned to fish in the Black Creek and we loved fishing. We always fished together,” said James Gardner.

He went on, reminiscing about their childhood, “There was no way to make money when we were kids. Then Charlie got the idea to trap muskrats and sell fur. I insisted he let me tag along. He and I became trapping partners.”

Mr. Gardner’s fishing skills were legendary. “He could catch trout where no one thought there was a trout,” said his brother. “There was a little stream in Guilderland; I fished it with him and never caught anything. He got up early mornings and rode his bicycle across town to that stream and came home with trout like this,” said James Gardner, spreading his palms upright and parallel to each other, nearly a foot apart.

When the boys got older, their father introduced them to hunting. “He taught us firearm safety,” recalled James Gardner. “My younger brother, Dave, came along with us and we became a team until my father passed.”

Hunting together led to “real bonding,” said James Gardner. It lasted for most of a lifetime — “until Charlie’s health started to fail and he could no longer go afield.”

Charles Gardner was in the last class to graduate from the old Altamont High school. The woman who would become his wife, Fay Musser, was in the first class to graduate from the newly centralized Guilderland High School.

Mrs. Gardner vividly recalled the day they met. “My parents’ house had burned. We were staying with aunts … Charlie’s two best friends wanted to visit. Charlie had the license. They said, ‘Charlie will you drive us?’”

He did.

“I was sitting on the couch, reading,” said Mrs. Gardner, recalling the arrival of the three friends. “We saw each other, and that was it,” she said.

“He always said, ‘You’re the only girl I ever loved.’ There is such a thing as love and such a thing as being in love. We were in love with each other, always.”

Mrs. Gardner’s parents approved of the match. “I was an only child,” Mrs. Gardner said. “When my dad met Charlie, he smiled and looked at me and said, ‘I think you got the right one.’ He was a good guy.”

But wedding plans were rushed. “We didn’t have much time,” recalled Mrs. Gardner as her husband was trying to join the Army. “He had sugar diabetes so the first time, they didn’t take him.” The next time, he was recruited.

The couple married in 1956 at the historic church next to the school in Berne; the ceremony was performed by Reverend Green, a family friend. Soon after, Mr. Gardner was sent for Army training. “He had such good shooting and accuracy, they sent him south and gave him special training,” said Mrs. Gardner. “He wound up on a base in France, on standby all the time.”

Mrs. Gardner joined her husband at the base in France, where their first child, Nancy, was born. “We called her our little French import,” said Mrs. Gardner. Mr. Gardner left the Army with the rank of sergeant.

After he returned home, he got a job with a company that had been his 4-H sponsor when he was a boy.

“We were in 4-H together,” said his brother. “We loved 4-H. They had a program where the Albany Kiwanis sponsored 4-H members. Charlie was sponsored by Conrad Spuck. He ended up going to work for Sager-Spuck, a contractor supply company.”

Mr. Gardner worked as a senior buyer for Sager-Spuck Supply Company in Albany until he retired.

The Gardners, after Nancy, had two sons, Charles III and Dennis. “He loved his kids,” said Mrs. Gardner.

“He was a great father,” said his daughter, Nancy Twaddell. She went on, “He was quiet, he was warm, he was funny, he was very caring. He was so proud of everything we did or accomplished.”

Mr. Gardner loved tending to the yard of his Altamont home. “We had a big garden,” said Mrs. Gardner. “He planted apple trees and rows and rows of grapes. We’d pick them together and I’d make the juice … We had wine, grape jelly, grape juice.”

Mr. Gardner also enjoyed watching baseball games. “He was a huge and very loyal Yankees fan,” said his daughter. “He watched every game. He just loved it.”

She and her mother both stressed that Mr. Gardner’s life centered on providing for and caring for his family.

“We always knew he was there for us, rooting us on — no matter hat, no matter when,” said his daughter. She added, “He liked the simple things. He wasn’t fancy.”

Mrs. Gardner concluded, “My husband was a very shy person. He’s going to look down on this and say, ‘What did they do — make me a celebrity?’”

“We loved him very much,” his daughter concluded. “We’ll miss him terribly.”

****

Charles W. Gardner Jr. is survived by his wife, Fay (née Musser) Gardner; his daughter, Nancy Twaddell and her husband, Russell; his sons, Charles W. Gardner III and Dennis Clyde Gardner; and his grandchildren, Kristen Twaddell Gannon and her husband, Michael, and Matthew Twaddell.

He is also survived by his siblings: James E. Gardner and his wife, Wanda; Caral Sigafoos and her husband, Dick; David Gardner and his wife, Linda; Joan Gardner; and Susan Carmody, and her husband Bill. He is survived, too, by his nieces and nephews and by his great-nieces and great-nephews.

His parents, Charles and Lillian (née Amsler) Gardner Sr., died before him as did his wife’s parents, Clyde and Myrtle Musser, and his brother, Paul Gardner.

Calling hours will be held on Saturday, April 6, from 11 a.m. to noon at Fredendall Funeral Home at 199 Main Street in Altamont, with a funeral service to follow. Interment will be at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Guilderland.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Altamont Reformed Church, 129 Lincoln Avenue, Post Office Box 671, Altamont, NY 12009.

 

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