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CLIFFORD “CLIFF” WALTER GARDNER, age 82 of Janesville, passed away suddenly on Thursday, January 28, 2021 at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, with his loving family by his side.
Cliff Gardner, the son of Harvey and Mary Gayle (Wolfe) Gardner, was born on July 28, 1938. In his younger years he kept busy with a newspaper route, and was a frequent altar server for Msr. Frank English at St Ann’s from the time he was in the 5th grade. He graduated from Janesville High School in 1956. At graduation Cliff was awarded a Medal of Leadership and Service from the Janesville American Legion.
Cliff did his law school under-graduate studies at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN. During his second year there, he was accepted by the Institute of European Studies to study for one semester at the University of Vienna, in Austria. There were approximately 80 students from colleges and universities all over the United States in this program. Each student lived with a local family during their time in Vienna. The program not only involved studies at the University of Vienna, but also bus excursions through most of Europe. The highlight of the trips took students to Rome, Italy for the 1958 Easter Services at the Vatican, involving a Mass and blessing from Pope Pius XII at St. Peter’s Cathedral.
Having acquired the necessary credits for acceptance to law school, Cliff applied for and was accepted to study at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, MN. Classes at that time were held in the evenings. Cliff worked as an insurance claims adjuster during the day.
On January 20, 1962 Cliff was united in marriage to Annette Takle of Walnut Grove, MN. They resided in St. Paul, MN at the time. Cliff graduated from law school with honors on June 10, 1968 ranked number 3 in his graduating class and was awarded a Juris Doctorate Degree. In that regard, on April 24, 1968, Cliff was recognized and honored at the College Court of Honor event sponsored by the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, along with 32 other Honor Students of St. Paul’s seven major colleges.
Following his admittance to the Minnesota State Bar Association on October 16, 1962, Cliff, Annette, and children moved from St. Paul to Janesville, Cliff’s hometown. Cliff joined his father and mother in their law firm which then became Gardner & Gardner, Attorneys at Law. In 2004 Cliff merged his practice with the Patton, Hoversten, and Berg Law firm, where he continued to practice law until his retirement.
In addition to his legal work, Cliff engaged in community service as a member of Rotary International, the Janesville-Smiths Mill Sportsman’s Club, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Order of Foresters, and the Janesville Area Camber of Commerce. Cliff also enjoyed his many years of volunteer assistance to Janesville High School and Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School sports.
In the mid-1970’s Cliff served as an associate instructor at the University of Minnesota Technical college in Waseca, where he taught Business Law for several years.
Cliff served as the Janesville Rotary Club Youth Exchange Coordinator for 30 years, a position he and Annette thoroughly enjoyed. They hosted several exchange students who came to Janesville under this program. As a result of their association with these students, Cliff and Annette have many good friends in various countries around the world. Cliff also served as chairman of the Rotary sponsored annual Academic Banquet for several years.
As a member of the Chamber of Commerce, Cliff was a significant part of the annual Easter Egg hunt for 40 years. Also, as a chamber member, Cliff spent 25 years driving Miss Janesville and her attendants to area parades in his royal blue 1968 Oldsmobile convertible. He was also involved in the arrangements for Hay Daze for many years.
As a member of the Knights of Columbus, Cliff was the Treasurer for the Janesville chapter, and Chairman of its Scholarship Committee for many years.
In recognition of his many years of community service, Cliff received a 2005 Good People Jefferson Award from the Institute for Public Service. Recipients are ordinary people who do extraordinary things without expectation or reward.
Waterskiing was a big part of Cliff’s life, beginning at age 15. He last water skied at age 72. All during the years between, he loved teaching others how to ski. That not only included his children and their friends, but also several of the Rotary Exchange students hosted in our community.
While he valued the recognitions he received, the true reward for Cliff was seeing the joy in childrens’ faces for finding the golden egg; being able to consider exchange students as family and pride in escorting Miss Janesville in all of the area parades. He had a heart of gold that was most happy helping others.
Cliff and Annette enjoyed traveling internationally and family road trips with their children all over the United States in their motor home. They also so enjoyed their 10 years wintering in Tucson, AZ where they made so many wonderful friends.
With regard to his legal work, Cliff served as City Attorney for Janesville, Pemberton, and Elysian at various times. He also served two terms as a member of the Minnesota Lawyers Board of Responsibility (ethics).
Cliff is survived by his loving wife of 59 years, Annette; and his children and grandchildren whom he adored: daughter Susan Gardner, and her son Sam; daughter Kathy (Ted) Martin, and their children Charlie and Sophie; and son Dan (Deb) Gardner, and their children Ellie and Claire. He is also survived by his sisters, Joan Sprengeler, Mary Gayle (Jim) Dietz, and Anne (Charles) Butler; brother, John (Terry) Gardner; sister-in-law Joan (John) Finitsis; brother-in-law, Harris Takle; and many nieces; nephews; other relatives; and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, Harvey and Mary Gayle Gardner; and his brother-in-law, Melvin Sprengeler.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions and risks, a visitation for the public without family present will be held from 4-7PM on Monday, February 1, 2021 at the Janesville Chapel of Dennis Funeral & Cremation Services.
A private family funeral Mass will be held at St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Janesville at 10:30AM on Tuesday, February 2, 2021. Those not in attendance at the private family Mass may watch a livestream of the service on the St. Ann’s Catholic Church YouTube channel. Interment will follow at St. Ann’s Catholic Cemetery in Janesville.
Monday, February 1, 2021
4:00 - 7:00pm (Central time)
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