Rick was pure magic

I was shocked and deeply saddened to learn recently that a dear friend and colleague of mine, Rick Gardner, had passed away suddenly at the age of 62 on March 28th.

I first met Rick back in the early 1990’s when we both took the Honours Specialist English AQ course and commuted together one summer from KW to Toronto.

As fellow teachers, Rick and I often shared stories of our experiences in the classroom both as teachers and students. I can still hear his rich, deep voice echoing behind me  in his trademark WC Fields-sounding delivery “Gardner Holdings will get that” when I tried to pay for my coffee during one of our class breaks.

That was Rick to the core, generous, warm-hearted, a true gentleman of gentlemen. I will always treasure memories of his wonderful stories. A master story-teller, Rick had a razor sharp wit and terrific sense of humor.

I had the pleasure of Rick’s company during several rounds of golf together over the years. On each occasion he always entertained us with his vast repertoire of jokes. We candidly shared our thoughts on numerous topics, though especially those closest to us – family and education.

Rick – aka  ‘Candy the magic clown’ performed at my son Jonathan’s 8th birthday party in front of my family and Jonathan’s friends. He was a true magician who wove his magic for young and old alike. His family can take solace from the knowledge that he shared his deep, abiding Christian faith, generous spirit, warm heart, sense of humor and wisdom with hundreds of young people over his impressive teaching career and the numerous summer youth camps at which he facilitated.

All of them are richer human beings because they knew him. Unfortunately, I lost touch with Rick when he moved to New Zealand in 2002 – an exciting new chapter in his storied life that was just beginning to unfold. I believe the last time I saw him was when we met for a drink at a local establishment just before he left.

I confessed at the time that I was a little jealous that it was him leaving rather than me. He quickly assured me that the opportunity for me to make such a move with my family would one day come. Since then I’ve often wondered how he was doing in NZ and was one day hoping to take up his offer to visit him.

It’s somewhat ironic that on the day he died, March 28th, one of my Faith & Culture course classmates was doing a presentation on the Camboni missionaries in NZ. Several times during the presentation I felt Rick’s spirit and imagined him standing at the head of our class giving us a history lesson on the area in which I believe he settled, Wharangei. Perhaps he was saying goodbye.

Rick was a loving husband to Ruth, father of two wonderful daughters and a grandfather of four special grandchildren.

Knowing that his family and friends are heart-broken and will miss him dearly – I’m convinced that Rick is looking down on us right now and thinking of a way to weave his magic one more time, to reassure us that he is in a very ‘magical place’, to pull a rabbit from his hat, dazzle us with another amazing card trick and tell us one more joke to help us smile through our tears and to laugh a five year-old’s laugh . . . one more time.

Photo Credit: Grace Welch (nee Gardner)

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