Wayne Scott Gardner died peacefully at his Woodland home on April 19, 2014, surrounded by his family. He was born Jan. 11, 1920, near Palisade, Colorado, the youngest of six children of Dora Levi and Violetta Scott Gardner.
Staff Sgt. Gardner served three years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, including a tour of duty on Guadalcanal, retiring as an oxygen generator Instructor. Just before the war ended, he married his sweetheart, Leona Oberly, in their hometown of Clifton, Colorado. On the GI Bill he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in botany and plant pathology at Utah State Agricultural College, Logan.
He was employed as a civilian researcher by the U.S. Army in Utah and conducted environmental and crop research for U.S. Steel Corporation in Utah and Pennsylvania. He and Leona welcomed four daughters along the way. Wayne returned to school at age 43 under a Regents Fellowship at UC Davis, where he earned a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology in 1967. His doctoral thesis project was a study of barley stripe mosaic virus, and he was honored for outstanding accomplishment in the field of electron microscopy at UC Davis.
He was hired as an associate professor at South Dakota State University in Brookings, where he focused on research and teaching using the electron microscope. Wayne was a devoted mentor to his graduate students and also served a USAID mission to Botswana. In Brookings, Wayne was active in Toastmasters and the Pitchblenders Barbershop Chorus. He and Leona grew a huge vegetable garden and painted in acrylics in their spare time.
When Wayne retired in 1985, he and Leona purchased a motor home and traveled all over the United States, including visits to Colorado and California family. They moved back to Yolo County in 1990 to be near family. It was their idea to plan a week-long family reunion vacation each summer at various northern California locations. The vacation tradition and holiday parties each year are a source of happy memories for all the family and friends who attended. Wayne’s joy in living set an example for everyone who knew him. He had many interests and studied his family history back to the first English settlers of Nantucket Island.
Wayne was active in resident activities at Leisureville Mobile Home Park in Woodland for many years, including cooking at monthly pancake breakfasts. He was honored April 6 at the Leisureville Founders’ Day program and reception as the last surviving member of the Leisureville Community Association committee that engineered the 1995 purchase of Leisureville from its owner, to become a cooperative park owned by the residents.
Wayne is survived by his wife of 69 years, Leona; daughters Susan Larock and husband Bruce Larock of Davis, Barbara Gardner and husband Robert Poeschel of Davis, Janet Lee of Woodland, and Kathrine Gardner and husband Kit Bedford of Half Moon Bay; grandchildren Lynne Larock and husband Scott Lindhurst, Jean Larock and fiancé David Floth, John Lee and Mary Lee; and great-grandchildren Henry and Maggie Lindhurst. Also surviving are many nieces and nephews and their families.
Memorials may be directed to Yolo Hospice or a charity of the donor’s choice.