May 19, 2021 will always be a momentous day in the lives of Elijah and Minnie Gardner – the day they saw their two grandsons graduate from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, watching the ceremony live from their respite care room at The Arbors at St. Barnabas, Valencia.

Justin and Christopher received their commissions from their father, Colonel Kelvin Gardner, U.S. Air Force (retired) as President Joe Biden, looked on.  And Elijah and Minnie saw it live, thanks to arrangements by St. Barnabas’ Memory Care Director Marjorie Hobaugh and staff.  Ensign Justin Gardner is assigned to the USCGC DEPENDABLE and Ensign Christopher Gardner to the USCGC Seneca.

Such a proud moment for two remarkable grandparents, who have set the standards for The Gardner Way.  Elijah, 99, and Minnie, 94, were both born in South Carolina on farms, but they never met until they came to Pittsburgh, PA.

Elijah served in the U.S. Navy during WWII on a destroyer in the North Atlantic.  After the war he went North to find work in the steel mills and eventually in the motor pool for the VA Hospital in Oakland, PA.  Minnie went North to attend Westinghouse High School, Pittsburgh, and became a nurse’s aide with the Veterans’ Administration.

The Gardner’s had two sons, Kelvin and Herbert.  Herbert died in 1984.  Colonel Kelvin Gardner is very proud of his parents and he and his wife Arleen and sons Justin and Christopher will be carrying on The Gardner Way.

“Family is everything.  We take care of loved ones,” Col. Gardner explains. “Growing up, my brother and I always had a parent at home.  Dad worked days, and Mom worked nights.  Church and faith were a major part of our lives.  We had to read the Bible every Sunday afternoon.  I asked my Dad, ‘Why?  We just came from church.’  And he answered, ‘We promised at your baptism to teach you the Bible.’”

Working hard, paying off debts, saving for the future were another part of The Gardner Way.  Minnie and Elijah paid off the mortgage on their Penn Hills home 13 years early.  They raised all their own food in their garden, canning vegetables and preserving homemade jams and jellies.

The Gardner home was always open to loved ones.  Elijah and Minnie took care of Minnie’s mother and an aunt in their home. “We Gardner’s take care of family.”

The Gardner Way has been a guiding force in Col. Gardner’s life. He has spent 35 years in uniform, serving his country.  A West Point graduate, he was a combat officer for five years, seeing action in Afghanistan and Albania.  He went on to attend seminary and was ordained in the East Orthodox faith, serving in the Air Force Chaplain Corps.  Col. Gardner fully retired in February, 2020.  He and his wife now live in Cranberry Township.

Elijah and Minnie enjoyed their respite care at The Arbors, Valencia and again in July at The Washington Place so much, they have decided to make St. Barnabas their permanent home.  They are now proud residents at The Arbors, Valencia, living, as always, The Gardner Way.

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