Paul A. Gardner

Paul A. Gardner

Paul A. Gardner grew up in Guilderland, hunting with his brothers for rabbits and birds that their mother would cook. His passion for hunting eventually took him around the globe, meeting challenges and making world records. He brought his trophies to his Danville, Pennsylvania home, where he displayed them in a special building that a close friend likened to a natural history museum.

“A passionate world traveler, Paul began his final journey home on Friday, May 18, 2018, with his loving wife, Tina, by his side,” his family wrote in a tribute. He was 64.

“He was very self-assured,” said his brother James Gardner. “He seemed to always know where he was going and how to make it happen … Paul was very smart. He knew the reality of the world around him.”

“He was a go-getter,” said his brother David Gardner, a phrase also used by his brother Charles. “He made up his mind he was going to go places and he did,” said Charles Gardner.

“We met in kindergarten,” said John Green. “He taught me how to tie my shoes,” a task he said his parents had failed at. Paul Gardner succeeded, however, because he could explain the process in a way John Green could understand it.

“We became fast friends quickly,” said Mr. Green. “We played, we got into trouble, we fought … We shared confidences in all ways as we explored life.”

In junior high, the two friends played baseball together; in high school, they double dated. When Mr. Gardner started work as a “club cleaning boy” and couldn’t make it to work, Mr. Green filled in.

When he grew up, Paul Gardner named his son John after Mr. Green, he said.

“Of all the graduates of the Class of ’71, I’m pretty sure Paul was the most successful of any of us,” said Mr. Green who has written books featuring some of his Guilderland High School classmates. “He was a multi-millionaire. He traveled the world. For a high-school graduate, he did pretty damn good for himself.”

Born on Oct. 8, 1953, Paul Gardner grew up on Siver Road, off of Willow Street in Guilderland, the youngest of four boys; he also had three sisters.

The Gardner brothers would hunt rabbits and birds and squirrels in the woods near their home. Like his brothers, Paul knew how to pluck a bird and skin a rabbit. “We never wasted anything,” said his brother, James Gardner.

“It was a scarce time, during the war years,” said the oldest son of Lillian and Charles Gardner, who was named after his father. “Nothing ever got wasted.”

Charles Gardner recalled taking Paul on his first deer-hunting trip, in the Helderbergs. “We had told him we had a doe permit but not to shoot a fawn ...We had separated. In the excitement of seeing a deer run past — it’s hard to know what you’re seeing at first — he shot a young doe,” recalled Charles Gardner. “We admonished him.”

But the deer did not go to waste. “We ate every deer we got,” said Charles Gardner. “Anything we shot, we ate … I once brought home a racoon and my mother cooked it. She could cook anything.”

“Paul was always an entrepreneur,” said David Gardner. The Gardners’ home was next to the Pinehaven Country Club. “At 8 or 9, Paul would look for balls the golfers had lost,” said David. “Then, he set up a stand near the course and he’d re-sell them to the golfers.”

David went on, “Golf was one of his passions. He went to Florida to PGA school, but you needed a corporate sponsor.”

At Pinehaven Country Club, said Mr. Green, Mr. Gardner, “started as the club cleaning boy and worked up to be assistant pro. His goal was to become a professional golfer.

“He was a very social guy. He tended bar at the club,” said Mr. Green. “He got mature fast.”

Some of the connections Mr. Gardner made led him to a job at Pargas, where “he moved up in management quickly,” said Mr. Green; then Mr. Gardner bought his own company, Heller’s Gas, in Pennsylvania, “and built it into a multi-million-dollar company.”

“He developed a whole lot of offshoot businesses under that umbrella,” said James Gardner.

Paul Gardner had a palatial home on 120 acres in Danville, Pennsylvania. When Mr. Green visited him there a year ago, he said, “He showed me his trophy room — a 5,000-square-foot building with everything from emus to elephants. It looked like a museum of natural history. … He spent $6 million on the taxidermy.”

“He holds several records for Grand Slams of sheep,” said David Gardner. “And he’s in the top 10 in the world for size of rack of deer.”

Paul Gardner is listed as one of fewer than 200 people who have achieved the Triple Slam — taking 12 or more of North America’s varieties of wild sheep, 12 or more of the world’s variety of wild sheep, and 12 or more of the world’s wild goats — a feat he achieved in 2009.

He went on countless hunting expeditions, traveling from the cold of Siberia to the heat of Asia, but perhaps his favorite was Africa.

“He loved Africa. He loved being on safari in Africa,” said David Gardner, who noted that is why his wife, Tina, chose the picture she did of Paul to run with his obituary. It shows him on safari, holding a chimpanzee and giving a thumbs-up sign as he smiles.

His brother, James, noted that Paul’s favorite stuffed animal, as a child, was the chimpanzee he named Zippy.

David Gardner, who was Paul’s mentor when it came to hunting, said, “He was gripped by hunting. He loved it from Day One. He started with small game and kept going to lions, and tigers, and bears.”

Describing what it means to be a hunter, what the attraction is, beyond the boyhood task of securing food, David Gardner said, “When you’re a hunter, you follow your instincts and the instincts of the animal you’re hunting. You have to be one with what you’re hunting.”

David concluded, “The number-one thing is the drive and the passion he had for what he did, whether it was hunting or business. He had that special drive that most people don’t have.”

Mr. Green, who moved to Arizona in 1999, is glad he visited his best friend a year ago, before Mr. Gardner was diagnosed with brain cancer. Several months after his visit to Pennsylvania, he got an email from Mr. Gardner that said “bad luck” in the subject line.

“He emailed me just an hour or two before he was having brain surgery at Duke University Hospital … that he wrote me that way — ‘bad luck,’ like he had just stubbed his toe. Everybody thought he’d be gone by Christmas but he lasted longer than people thought possible. He was about to have brain surgery and he thought to tell me. I was touched to the core. My eyes are getting misty just thinking about it.”

Mr. Green concluded of his friend, “He was a man of the world. He lived big.”

****

Paul A. Gardner was a member of the Masonic Knapp Lodge 462 F. & A.M. in Berwick, Pennsylvania, Shriners Irem Temple, Caldwell Consistory, and Royal Order of Jesters. He supported the National Rifle Association, and many fraternal orders of police. He was also a member of the Berwick Golf Club and the Safari Club International.

He is survived by his beloved wife, Tina Randello-Gardner; his sons, Joe Gardner and his wife, Katie, John Gardner and his wife, Tara, and Paul Gardner Jr.; by his siblings, Charles Gardner Jr. and his wife, Fay, James Gardner and his wife, Wanda, Carol Sigafoos and her husband, Dick, David Gardner and his wife, Linda, Joan Gardner, and Susan Carmody and her husband, Bill; by his four grandchildren, Joseph, Trey, Eric, and Cali; and by many nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, May 25, at 11 a.m. at St. Joseph Church at 68 East Center Street in Danville, Pennsylvania, concelebrated by the Rev. William Weary and the Rev. James E. Lease. There will be a private conferment of Masonic Rites held prior to the service. There will be no public viewing or visitation.

Burial will be private and at the convenience of the family. Mourners may leave condolences online at BradyFuneralHome.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to Camp Courage, a camp for children and teens who have experienced the death of someone they love, through the Geisinger Health System Foundation (with “Bereavement Camps” noted in the memo), 100 Academy Ave., Danville, PA 17822-2576.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

Corrected on May 29, 2018: Paul Gardner had three sisters, as listed among the survivors, not two as the body of the obituary originally misstated.

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