Remembering Jeff Gardner
November 4, 1947- August 23,2020
He was the artist and ambassador of Woodrow Wilson Court. At Open Studios he entertained hundreds there, strumming on his old Martin guitar, making conversation, and, of course, sharing his paintings. He used the arts and the Red Sox to connect with the world.
He made everyone feel good. “He’s a smart cookie—played football at Penn; attended _______ [Brown, Princeton, Harvard]; she’s the Mayor of Cambridge; her father was a surgeon; he was the Captain of the lacrosse team.”
From a proud New England family, he was quick to point out the big photo on his living room wall of his grandfather, Maj. General Harold. R. Duffie, Commander of the Port of Liverpool during WWII. His Aunt Ann Fleck, once the head of the national DAR, was an extraordinary musician who played with the Wellesley Symphony Orchestra. His father, Captain Irving H. Gardner, was a Boston Harbor Pilot and his mother, Jean Duffie Gardner, knew everyone, had her own TV local TV show, “Tales of Cape Cod,” and was a force of nature. How he had loved his sisters. Lynn and Jan, the latter who had lived on the isle of Hydra in Greece, where she inspired Leonard Cohen to write a song. Later, she met the Beatles when they toured New England. The loss of both his sisters had a profound impact on his life and his health. His art and his music kept him afloat and a family holiday wasn’t the same without Jeff playing tunes on the guitar. “Favorite Things”, “Black Bird”, “Over the Rainbow”, and Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” were all part of the Gardner repertoire.
He loved St. Peter’s, and he painted dozens of paintings for the church and its congregants. His Episcopal and Cape Cod upbringing and Hebron Academy and Brown education were central to his identity.
His apartment on the 4th floor at Woodrow Wilson Court was his nest in the treetops. He loved it. There he could paint away in his bedroom studio while listening to his favorite records, feed the birds, and write his poetry and pals. Those of us honored to be in his inner circle received regular calls, often very early, and regular copies of his latest poetry and paintings, often inspired by national events. And always with a little love note. He listened to the late night news—he’d say Judy Woodruff tucked him into bed—when he wasn’t watching old movies or a good western like “The Rifleman” into the wee hours.
Jeff made us slow down and reminded us of what was really important: the arts, music, baseball, love and connection. All the rest is just static.