Cover photo for Cary Gardner's Obituary
1947 Cary 2020

Cary Gardner

September 6, 1947 — September 10, 2020

Cary W. Gardner, September 6, 1947 - September 10, 2020

Cary William Gardner, 73, died unexpectedly on Thursday, September 10, 2020, at the Ashtabula County Medical Center.

Born on September 6, 1947, Cary grew up in a small house on W. 51st St. in Ashtabula, OH, the oldest of three brothers. He entered the working world as a boy with a Star Beacon paper route. Determined to go to college, he worked his way through Kent State University back when it was possible for a West Side kid to do so. It was through a job in Ashtabula that he met his “brother from another mother,” Chuck Popelka, who became a treasured, life-long friend. Cary was a member of the first fraternity at Ashtabula Kent, Delta Psi Omega, forging friendships there which lasted his entire life.

As a history major, Cary read widely and paid close attention to the political events that led to the U.S. war in Vietnam. With a strong commitment to principle, Cary declared Conscientious Objector status and worked for an end to the war. He supported those who returned damaged from the war, and was critical of those who were hostile to returning soldiers.

Cary was a senior on campus when the Kent State shootings occurred on May 4, 1970, after which the school administration dismissed all students for the remainder of the term. At loose ends, he found his way to Huntington Beach, California, landing a job in a surfboard factory immediately upon the owner’s learning that he was not, in fact, a surfer. Because Cary had one academic assignment to finish to earn enough credits for graduation, he labored to complete a final paper and mailed it from California, only to receive his diploma in the mail the next day, as the school administration had decided to use mid-term grades for the final quarter.

Cary traveled back East to visit his good friend Chuck, newly discharged from the Army, who worked at the George Washington University computer center. Chuck helped Cary land a job there, and thus began his long career in mainframe computer operations and management. He worked many years as the Computer Operations Manager for Oregon Mutual Insurance Company in McMinnville, OR, and later at Management Reports International, a real estate software company in Beachwood, OH.

Cary was a man of many interests. He “fancied” older British sports cars, and owned three Triumphs and one MGB during his life. His last was the car he’d always wanted: a 1968 Triumph TR-250 (only 2,947 were produced between August 1967 and September 1968). He was a fan of rock and roll, and liked to annoy younger music fans by claiming he had lived in the true golden age of rock, and that no one would remember or care to revive any of their currently popular music.

He loved many of the traditional Hungarian foods his mom had prepared, and relished sweet corn and watermelon, but he also loved to sample and enjoy the foods of different cultures, the spicier the better. Mexican, Japanese and Thai were among his favorites. He was powerless in the presence of a good bowl of pho.

Old movies were another passion, a remnant of nights staying up with his mom watching black & white movies on TV. “Laura,” with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, and Clifton Webb, was one of his absolute favorites. He enjoyed film noir, and could tell you the name of every supporting actor and actress who appeared often in these B films. There were certain movies he would always watch, no matter how many times he had seen them, among these “Bullitt,” “The Natural,” “Grand Prix,” and “The Sting,” and, well, who can resist the classic “Office Space?”

Cary loved nature, especially birds, with the exception of pigeons (which he would drive from feeders with a squirt gun or hose), and raptors. But blue jays, a variety of woodpeckers, cardinals, nuthatches, house finches, grosbeaks, all the little brown jobs (sparrows), juncos in the winter, migrating white-crowned sparrows (always a harbinger of the change of seasons) were a pleasure to observe. A fine day was sitting in the shade on the patio on a pleasant summer day, watching and listening to birds beside a babbling fountain; in the winter, watching through the window as goldfinches swung on tall weed stalks, nibbling the tiniest of seed heads.

He also loved trains and train travel, and he and Jen were able to make trips by rail to Colorado and Arizona, before the Covid 19 pandemic cancelled their third planned trip. His favorite travel experience in recent years was a 2018 visit to Yellowstone National Park with his wife, brother Terry and Terry’s wife, Daelynn. The scenery and geologic systems are primitive, incredible, and humbling, and Cary and Jen had hoped to return to see more.

He was a fan of the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns. He either loved or hated watching the Tribe, depending on the quality of play, and was looking forward to a truly competitive Browns team this year and beyond.

Cary believed that the two greatest inventions in human history were YouTube and the Hubble Telescope, the first because it is a infinite store of human culture, and the latter because a glimpse of what lies beyond should terrify everyone into taking better care of this planet.

Cary had an open and welcoming personality, and could easily chat and joke with anyone, whether strangers in line or friends of friends he had just met. He donated generously to people and causes that were important to him. He had no tolerance for gasbags, either political- or sports-oriented, or for greed, arrogance, or condescension toward those less fortunate. Among his final words were, “Don’t be negative or look to criticize; be kind.”

Cary married Jennifer L. Zima at the old courthouse in Jefferson, OH, on January 27, 1997. He and Jen had dated for a brief period in the late 1960s. After reconnecting in 1995, they reunited and married in her home town. His first marriage to Susan Peery of McMinnville, OR, ended in divorce.

Cary is survived by his wife Jennifer, brothers Larry (Carol) Gardner of Waddell, AZ, and Terry (Daelynn) Gardner of Vancouver, WA, a sister, Jean Relles, of Oaklawn, IL, niece, Christine (Jamey) Grim, and great nephews Greg Coleman and Brandon (Alyssa Greene) Coleman, all of Warren, OH. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lloyd and Anna (Ruck) Gardner.

Jennifer wishes to thank Dr. Razvan Ducu for his extraordinary kindness in the ACMC Emergency Room, and Jolene for her care of Cary in his last two hospitalizations. She is also deeply grateful to Dr. Mohammad Varghai, and to Kathy and the other exceptional nurses at the ACMC Cancer Center for their expert and compassionate care, and to Josie for wrangling all those appointments and just for having the greatest laugh, and finally to Dr. Robert Dlwgosh for his responsible and watchful care over many years.

Those who wish to honor Cary’s memory may do so by voting blue, or by making a donation to the Ashtabula County Humane Society, HOLA Ohio, or Yellowstone Forever.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Cary Gardner, please visit our flower store.

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