Joanne Marciante, the current head of volunteers, worked with Mrs. Gardner from 1972 to 1986.
"She was a great mentor, and became a good friend. The day she retired, we went out to lunch, and she gave me a beautiful gold chain. I have never taken it off," Marciante said.
Mrs. Gardner, whose last name before marriage was Syrek, grew up in Washington, Pa., and was educated at the Washington Seminary for Girls. She was the fourth of nine children.
She was known in the Pittsburgh area for her talent as a singer, dancer, and model. She hosted her own radio program on station WMBO at age 13, and was known as "the little girl with the big voice."
Though she had dreamed of a career on Broadway, she had to seek work in a field where there was regular pay. She chose a career as a classification and wage analyst in the civil service. In that role, she was dispatched to various Army hospitals in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia.
It was during a Virginia assignment that she met John G. Gardner II, a retired Navy Reserve officer who was a landscape architect. After marrying, they settled in Haverford, his hometown, and then moved to Bryn Mawr, where they raised four children.
Unwilling to stifle her love of the stage, Mrs. Gardner sang with a local group. She also performed, choreographed, and designed costumes for theater productions of the Rosemont Rollicks, St. Thomas Players, and Villanova University.
She loved to grow plants, especially hybrid daylilies, and was a member of the Delaware Valley Daylily Society.
Mrs. Gardner had a deep Catholic faith. In 1964, she and her family were among the first to join the newly formed St. John Neumann Catholic Church.
Mrs. Gardner was preceded in death by her husband of 51 years, and sons John G. III and David E.
Surviving are daughter Pamela G. Deas; son Mark N.; eight grandchildren; two brothers; and nieces and nephews.
A 9:30 a.m. visitation on Friday, June 20, will be held in the Life Center at St. John Neumann Church, 380 Highland Ave., Bryn Mawr, followed by a 10:30 a.m. Funeral Mass at the church. Interment is in SS Peter and Paul Cemetery.
Contributions may be made to Little Sisters of the Poor via www.littlesistersofthepoor.org, or to the Bryn Mawr Hospital Foundation, 130 S. Bryn Mawr Ave., Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010.