12 July 1928 to 10 January 2014
Howard was full of energy and always doing things for other people – he could never say “No” to anyone’s request for help.
This eulogy was written by Howard’s daughter Janice.
Howard Stuart Gardner was born on 12 July 1928 in Brentford, Middlesex. He was brought up in Kingston-Upon-Thames where he played in Richmond Park along the Thames. He had a younger brother Derek, who died in his 40s, plus an older sister Mary, who survives him.
Howard’s father was a chief bank clerk at the Midland bank, and his mother was a teacher. A scholarship took him to Kingston Grammar school. It was war time, so he was evacuated to Macclesfield to live with an aunt for a while. A problem with his eyes kept him out of the army.
At Aberystwyth University, Howard studied Agriculture with Botany. Before gaining his BSc, he gained experience on his uncle’s farm – where a carthorse stood on his foot for a while. He had to wait patiently until the horse chose to remove it.
It was at Aberystwyth, at Church Students’ Society, that Howard met Gwen. Several of them were asked to give a talk on various words in the hymn, ‘How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds’ (hence it’s inclusion in this service). Gwen chose ‘Saviour’, even though it wasn’t one of of the words, because she liked it. Howard went up to her after and said “When can I see you again?” Howard had to send for his bike from London so he could catch up with her on the prom.
Despite Gwen’s father’s opposition to her getting married, they decided eventually to go ahead, getting married in August 1953.
They started life in Rushden, Northamptonshire, where Howard was involved in food research with Unilever. After four years or so, a job came up at the Shirley Institute in Textile Research (dying and bleaching). Moving to Didsbury, they became members of St James church, and keen church workers, (Baby Fellowship, Youth Fellowship etc.) Both of them sang in the choir, and played the organ on many occasions. Howard was unofficially a lay reader in Northampton, and did the training and exams for it when he came to Didsbury.
He was always doing things for other people, full of energy. He could never say “No” to anyone’s request for help. He was so resourceful, and would find a solution for any problem. His Boy Scout upbringing taught him many things. Howard was a wonderful husband and father, and was also very fond of animals – as is Gwen. The family had five dogs in all, much loved and with a good long life.
Mountain walking was a weekly hobby which Gwen and Howard both enjoyed. It was a great time to talk things through, – one of the secrets of their long marriage. Year after year they got the caravan out and we went off to the high hills of Scotland. There was many an adventure, usually called ‘A Gardner Special’. One memorable night we sat on the top of Ben Vair huddled together with the dog for warmth, waiting for daylight to come so we could find our way down the mountain.
After being made redundant from the Shirley Institute – due to the collapse of the cotton industry here – Howard retrained as a Trade Effluent Officer. He spent many happy hours pulling up manhole covers with his driver, tracing nasty substances that were polluting the water treatment back at Davyhulme. He would visit firms and deliver an ultimatum which usually resulted in them getting their act together. I can remember him mentioning sulphuric acid from some battery manufacturer on one occasion.
When he retired from Davyhulme, he continued taking visiting parties of school children round, plus foreign government members seeking to update their sewage works, and interested University of the Third Age students too. Howard continued to buzz around at full speed helping people, taking funerals, leading Lent groups, preaching and taking Communion to residents in Sheltered Accommodation until about 2009. A double heart beat in 2007 had given him difficulties which may have contributed to later health problems. Already prostate cancer had been successfully controlled for many years with hormone treatment, lulling us into thinking all was well on that score.
In April 2013, Howard was admitted to hospital with kidney failure. He was about to have further tests in October when he collapsed, and was admitted to hospital, ostensibly with a urine infection. However, it turned out that cancer had spread up his spine and into his vertebrae from the prostate. The game was up.
On 15 November, Howard was moved from hospital to Yorklea Nursing Home in Chorlton. We are so grateful to the staff there for enabling him to start eating again and regain some interest in life. He had a good three days over Christmas, and then gently deteriorated from then on. He had excellent care and much love from the staff at the Home, who were also very supportive of Gwen and Janice.
Howard died peacefully on Friday 10 January. He is greatly missed.
Revd Nick Bundock adds the following:
I will miss Howard very much indeed and have fond memories of him and Gwen at morning prayer day after day, of Howard’s great faith-filled prayers and his willingness to always offer a word in season. But this little story, told to me by Pat Jones, will suffice to illustrate the nature of the man we have lost.
Howard and Gwen used to be ward visitors and on one occasion they visited a man called Peter who was on the ward with kidney organ transplant failure. Howard talked, prayed with and comforted Peter, who when he left hospital joined his local church and began an Alpha Course – he was helped into each session in a wheelchair. Peter never completed the course but it gave him great courage and determination. At Peter’s funeral the minister commented on his unusually fine character. Howard was at the funeral and offered words of comfort to Peter’s family and friends.
Peter was Pat’s nephew and this story illustrates what a humble yet piercingly bright presence Howard has been over many faithful years. The ‘Howards’ of this world are becoming rarer as life speeds up and we focus ever more on ‘me and my family’. Howard and Gwen offer us another way to be.