Pastors' Memoirs

Frederick Lelon Gardner, 1943-1995

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There are few people on this earth who are blessed with the ability to speak the truth in love. Fred Gardner was one of them. Fred could speak without malice or sarcasm and still proclaim the truth. He could, with love, yet with firmness, tell you that you were wrong in such a way that you never felt condemned. It must have been much the way Jesus reached people.

Fred was also blessed with a marvelous sense of humor. A master of the one-liner, Fred could find humor in even the worst situations. This ability stood him in good stead all his life and especially in his illness. As his disease chipped away at the life in his body, his soul was not diminished; it even flourished.

Fred taught those around him much about life in the midst of death. Perhaps that was simpler for him than for some because he always seemed to be aware of heaven throughout his life. His faith and the strength of his soul were an inspiration to all who knew him.

Born June 28, 1943, Fred grew up in Hampton, Virginia, and graduated from Hampton High School and Lynchburg College. Answering his call to ministry, Fred studied at Duke. He had the gift of being able to serve small, rural churches, a vanishing breed of pastor these days, but still much needed. He served charges all his ministerial career and was in the Lynchburg, Rappahannock, Danville, and Petersburg districts. The people of Peaksview, Montvale, West Campbell, Montross, Providence, and McKenney can all attest to his gentle, loving leadership in their charges. Whatever else Fred did, he loved the people God had him to serve and he did his best to serve them well.

In his 20 years of ministry, Fred touched many people, both parishioners and colleagues. There were many who sought out his gentle wisdom when a decision was to be made because he had the gift of being able to see clearly in difficult situations.

There are many who miss Fred greatly -- his wife, Bonnie, and daughter, Melanie; his relatives, his friends. Those who miss him can celebrate the new life in Jesus Christ that he is enjoying, whole and happy now. Still, he is missed, for those who knew him know a gentle saint of the church has gone from our midst.

- Cynthia A. Corley



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