Gary ‘Kent’ Gardner, 1940-2021

Jul 2, 2021


Gary “Kent” Gardner, age 80, died of natural causes on the evening of Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at Southdale Fairview hospital in Edina, Minnesota, there with his wife and children.

Gardner was born in Mobridge, South Dakota, on December 12, 1940. He was born into journalism, working with both of his parents, first at the Mobridge Tribune where his father Roy Gardner was editor, and then on to Sioux Center Iowa where both his mother, Mary Louise, and Roy published the Sioux Center News.

Kent grew tall and strong at a young age, playing high school football, and was affectionately known as “Tank.” His character was growing equally strong — confident, passionate and driven. At 19, he would meet his wife of 61 years, Gail Miller, start a family, and start a lifetime in journalism.

He began at the Mankato Free Press while still a student at Mankato State University and did not have to wait long for the job to become exciting, a feeling he never outgrew. In those first years, he sat in on an interview with former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. He would receive a letter from then-FBI director J. Edgar Hoover complimenting him on an article he had written about the FBI agents.

His career progressed quickly, moving to the Mason City Globe Gazette and then to The Minneapolis Star in 1968 doing various reporting and photography roles. Soon he was named an assistant news editor.

"I laid out the front page of the Star, then the B section," said Kent. "I know it's a cliche, but as a journalist, I did become a witness to history."

The first man on the moon was one of many exciting moments he remembered. From the ‘70s until he retired in 2005, Kent held many leadership positions, contributing to the success of the Star and later Star-Tribune. His former peers describe him well as passionate, compassionate, competitive, direct, tough and talented.

In retirement, Kent was able to travel extensively all over the world, including 40 cruises and trips across every continent, enjoying his post retirement days with Gail. They were always on an adventure or one that was coming up soon. He loved her much; they were best friends and took care of each other. He was an excellent cook, as well, and had a great love and knowledge of wine he would share with others.

Kent instilled a strong work ethic in his boys that drove success to each of them not just in their own fields of occupation, but in life. Growing up in the house, there was always a clear sense for what was right, and doing anything other than that was not going to happen. He supported every son’s interest and passion.

He instilled strong loyalty, integrity, respect, honor, trust, leadership, fairness and compassion that shaped them to what they have become today.

Kent was an inspiration and support to 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He was exceedingly generous and supportive with all his family — inquisitive and curious when he talked to everyone.

With the spirit of a journalist even into retirement, he voraciously documented everything from family life to holidays and world travels with Gail in photos, letters and later social media. "Papa-razzi" was a favorite nickname of the grandkids, as he always had a camera to capture and keep events alive. Their home was proof of that inquisitive character. In it you would find endless treasures: Dutch wooden shoes for St. Nicholas Day, Venetian masks, beautiful Ukrainian eggs and more. These items captivated their grandkids, encouraging them to their own life of travel and adventure, whether around the world or just as far as Rainy Lake, where Kent fished every year with Gail for decades.

Through it all, Kent was informed, articulate and intentional with everyone in his life, young and old. His grandchildren remember his insight and dry wit, revealed and understood with age, and often over good meals shared together.

He is survived by wife, Gail Gardner, son Robert (Debra Gardner), son Michael (Patty Gardner), son Grant (Dianne Gardner) and grandchildren Sophia, Madelyn, Olivia, Michaela, Katie, Daniel, Anthony, Melissa, Christian, Anna Mae and Twyla.

He is also survived by sisters Ann Rogers (Alan) and Sara Boynton (Ralph).

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the University of Minnesota Arboretum in Chaska, a favorite place loved by Kent and Gail. Kent has been cremated, per his last wishes. He also requested no funeral; however, a gathering to celebrate Kent's life will be planned for a later date.