DR. WADE G. GARDNER, 82
LAKELAND - Dr. Wade G. Gardner was born in Alliance, Ohio, on January 18, 1932. He died of respiratory failure on August 31, 2014, at his home in Lakeland.
He married Joanne Hartman on July 20, 1952, in Edinburgh, Ohio. He was a member of Omega Tau Sigma Fraternity and graduated from The Ohio State University in 1957 as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. He was the first member of his family to ever graduate from college. He practiced in Dayton, Ohio, for one year in a mixed animal practice, and moved to Lakeland in 1958. He was a Charter member of the Vanguard Sunday School Class at the First United Methodist Church. He began caring for the City of Lakeland swans in 1958 and opened Lakeland Veterinary Hospital in 1962. He was active in many professional and civic groups, primarily the Florida Veterinary Medical Association (FVMA), and the Downtown Lakeland Lions Club. He was a past president of the Ridge Veterinary Medical Society (RVMS), the Lions Club, and the FVMA. He was the founder and past president of Highlands Future, Inc., a group dedicated to responsible development in the Lakeland Highlands area. He was one of the founding members of the Veterinary Emergency Clinic, responsible for providing emergency care for the pet owning public of Polk County for most of the past 30 years.
He was a sixty year member of the Masonic Lodge. He cared for leader dogs for the blind, and hearing dogs for the deaf. He also actively cared for the K-9 units for both the Lakeland Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff's department. He was active with the Boy Scouts of America and the Lakeland High School Band Parents Association. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the RVMS and the FVMA. He was presented by the Polk Museum of Art with the U.S. postal stamp of swans, a National Points of Light Award by President George Bush and a State Points of Light Award by Governor Jeb Bush for service to Swan Conservation. He received an FVMA Gold Star Award in 1981 and 1984, and was presented a Key to the City of Lakeland in Gratitude for Unselfish Service by Lakeland Mayor J. Larry Durrance on April 3, 1986 for care of City Swans. He was very active in the establishment of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, was a member of the Deans Council, and helped establish the RVMS Scholarship, the College's oldest active award for veterinary students. He served as Treasurer from it's inception, and annually awarded 2 - 3 scholarships.
Day to day many of us wrestle with what we want to be, where we want to live, who we want to marry, where we want to travel and how we are going to accomplish our goals. Dr. Gardner was a man set apart from the rest; he was a man of convictions and courage. He always knew he wanted to be a veterinarian and he also knew it would take a lot of hard work. Despite the obstacles he put in the hours, the labor, and made the sacrifices to earn his degree. He had an incredible work ethic, one that was instilled in him by his mother, that he has in turn passed down to his children and grandchildren. He also always knew he wanted to spend his life with his wife Joanne, whom he met at the age of five. They truly loved each other, in the way we all hope to be loved, not out of duty but because long ago they had tied their souls together so that her hurt was his hurt, his successes were her successes. They were partners. He said 'she did what I couldn't do, and I did what she couldn't do.' They devoted their lives not just to one another and his career, but also to their children. Dr. Gardner always treated them as individuals, taking such great pride in them and the men that they have become. He has also said that they are by far his greatest accomplishment. He valued family fervently. Together they traveled the world. They saw and experienced places and things that many of us talk about doing someday. Dr. Gardner's life was so full, with so many accomplishments, stories, friends, and family, that trying to express all that he has done and meant to so many is an impossible task. Most importantly though, throughout his life he had convictions and courage. Dr. Gardner knew what he wanted out of life and he did it, he worked hard to have opportunities for his family, and he gave back ten fold what he got out of life. His legacy cannot be condensed to a singular word, and neither could he. If you were to tell him how far reaching his impact is he would simply
say 'well, I had a lot of time,' and that is kind of man he was.
Dr. Gardner was preceded in death by his wife, Joanne. He is survived by his sons Gary, wife Loraine, Sacramento, New Mexico, Gregory, wife Patty, Lakeland, and Geoffrey, wife Lisa, Lakeland. Grandchildren Jameson, wife Theresa, LaShelle, Ashley, and Evan. Great-grandchildren Alyssa, Sarah, Jordan, and Parker.
The family will receive friends on Thursday September 4, 2014, from 5-7 p.m. at the Tribute Center of Heath Funeral Chapel and funeral services will be held on Friday, September 5, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. at First United Methodist Church Sanctuary. Burial will follow at Lakeland Memorial Gardens.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.heathfuneralchapel.com .
Heath Funeral Chapel
328 South Ingraham Avenue
Lakeland, FL 33801
Published in Ledger from Sept. 3 to Sept. 4, 2014