Dale Allan Gardner, age 65, of Divide, Colorado passed away unexpectedly in Colorado Springs, on February 19, 2014. Born to Alice and the late William Gardner on November 8, 1948 in Fairmont, Minnesota, he was the eldest of three children.
Upon graduation from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Physics, Dale entered into active duty with the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the Aviation Officer School in Pensacola, Florida. Selected as the most promising naval officer of his class, he was awarded his Naval Flight Officer Wings in 1971 and subsequently was involved in the initial F-14 TOMCAT flight with assignment to the first operational F-14 Squadron (VF-1) at NAS Miramar, San Diego, California. After deployment on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, he was assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 4 (VX-4) at NAS Pt. Mugu, California and was selected as an Astronaut Candidate by NASA in January 1978. Dale was chosen to join the crews of missions STS-8 aboard Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983 and STS-51A aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984. Serving as Mission Specialist, he logged a total of 337 hours in space, 225 orbits of the Earth, completed two space walks totaling 12 hours and flew the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) backpack. After returning to the US Navy in 1986 following 8 ½ years with NASA, Dale served over two years as the Deputy Chief of Space Control Operations Division in Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base and after promotion to the rank of Captain, he became the command's Deputy Director for Space Control at Peterson Air Force Base. He retired from the U.S. Navy in 1990 and served as Program Manager in the Engineering Operations of TRW Inc. He later became Manager of Northrup Grumman's Colorado Springs operations. After 13 years, he joined the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado as the Associate Director for Renewable Fuels Science & Technology.
Dale retired January 2013 to enjoy the tranquility and peace of the Colorado mountains with his beloved wife Sherry Gardner. He is also survived and greatly loved by his children Lisa Gardner Hoefler, stepdaughter Erika Church, stepson Christopher Church, grandchildren Isabella Hoefler and Jude Church-Barry, mother Alice Gardner, sisters Peggy Janka and Kay Zipse, many loving nieces, nephews, family members and dear friends. Dale was preceded in death by his son Todd Allen Gardner, and his father.
While Dale's lifetime achievements are extraordinary, they only begin to capture his intangible gifts of humility, generosity, and compassion and the many lives that he has forever changed.
Through his generosity of heart, several people have received a gift of life from Dale though the Donor Alliance Organ & Tissue Donation organization.
A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 219 East Bijou Street, Colorado Springs on Tuesday, February 25, 2014. Following the funeral there will then be a reception at the church. Private burial will take place at Evergreen Cemetery.
Memorial contributions may be made in Dale's memory to the Pikes Peak United Way, 518 North Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903 (www.ppunitedway.org).
"Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time."
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Published in The Gazette from Feb. 22 to Feb. 24, 2014