Long-time firefighter retires from force
After serving his country and community, George “Butch” Gardner deserves a little relaxation that will come with retirement.
Gardner announced his retirement from the Wellington Fire District after 28 years of service, a decision that was not easily made.
“I love the village (of Wellington), loved my time on the fire department. I wish I could stay. I wanted to go 30 years, but with certain health issues, I decided to hang it up,” Gardner said.
A native of Wakeman, Gardner attended high school at Western Reserve and found himself married in 1964.
by ADAM FOX
Not long after the wedding, Gardner moved to Wellington in 1965, a village that despite his many travels, always called him back.
After being in town for around a year, Gardner enlisted in the Navy and soon found himself on the sunny shores of San Diego.
“When I joined the Navy, I was stationed in Coronado, Calif. Went to a lot of places, like Hawaii,” Gardner said.
Gardner was part of the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, or Seabees, as they are often referred. The Seabee name is derived from the initials of Construction Battalion (CB).
“We would go into an area and get it ready. We cleared locations for bases, set up runways, things like that,” Gardner said.
“When we went to Hawaii, there was an Army Reserve training event that we did,” Gardner said.
It is said that military men have the want to serve in their blood, and if Gardener’s bloodline is any indication, it is true.
“I have one son, 15 years in the Air Force, and he’s a Master Sergeant (George III). My youngest is a U.S. Marine. He is a sergeant in Afghanistan,” Gardner said.
Even with a war going on, Gardner’s youngest, Tyler Gardner, still keeps in contact with his family here in Wellington.
“He calls once in a while (from Afghanistan). It’s not easy for him, but he does,” Gardner said.
When Gardner’s career with the Navy was over, he went into the private sector and was hired at Dunlap, a company that since 1873, had been a leader in the field of general and mechanical contractors.
Gardner married Deborah Ann (Willbond) in January, 1983 in Wellington, and had plans of a more relaxing life.
It was not long, however, before the need to serve beckoned, and once again, Gardner found himself putting his life on the line for others.
Gardner began working for the Wellington Community Fire District, and even after 28 years of loyal service, can still look back at some funny moments.
“My family and I were coming back into town after a trip and there was a house fire. It was the dead of winter, December of ‘84. The funny thing was, I had to leave my family in the car and go deal with the fire. I had to call the police to have them come get my family. Tyler was a two-month old,” Gardner said.
The family structure cannot help but be affected by the life of a firefighter.
“Anytime my pager would go off, my boy would run to the window and look for fire trucks,” Gardner said.
Two of Gardner’s sons followed him down the military path, while the third, Kenny Gardner, became involved with a fire department in the county due south of Lorain.
“Kenny is an EMS captain for the Ashland City Fire Department,” Gardner said.
He has seven children — Tim, Kenny, Kim, Misty, George, Tyler and Josh — and 16 grandchildren whose lives keep him busy. His brother, Russ Gardner, is the retired fire chief of the Carlisle Fire Department.
His wife is an LPN, and both are trained EMTs, having served the South Lorain County Ambulance District.
Gardner has gone through the retirement procedure before, as he was the transportation director for both Midvew and Buckeye school districts.
Currently, Gardner continues to be on the move as he drives a truck for Miller Trucking and is considered by his peers to be a serious gearhead.
He has also been a Mason for more than 10 years, and camped at Clare-Mar Lakes with his family for 22 years.
The Fire District plans a congratulatory event this Sunday, June 10, 2-4 p.m. with a presentation followed by light refreshments. All are welcome.