Local teacher loses life in farm accident Community rallies around family
Darrell Gardner was involved in a farming accident which took his life on May 31. He was clearing trees from his property outside of Cleveland when he was uprooting a tree that was part alive and partially dead when the dead portion of the tree came through the cab of the backhoe killing Gardner instantly.
Darrell is a well-known and popular teacher at Emery High as well as the track and cross country coach and a former wrestling coach. He taught PE classes and the social dance class. He helped each year at the Junior Prom where he worked to teach the students the promenade.
Services were held at the Huntington Stake Center on June 3. The chapel and gym were filled to capacity with friends, family and former students of Coach Gardner.
Two of Darrell's friends from college spoke at the funeral. Rod Law described Darrell's unique style of walking and the bounce in his step. Darrell had a nickname of Tigger which he carried with him throughout his life. Darrell ran track for Utah State University and found success on the medley relay. He was a team player. Darrell was a man of many interests. He was a graduate of the institute program at Utah State. He hunted, fished, went 4-wheeling and went home on weekends to work on his parents farm. He played the guitar and many happy memories were made around the campfire with Darrell singing and making up songs. He kept a 4.0 grade point average and graduated as class Valedictorian. He taught a year at Cedar and then returned for his Masters. He found time to court his wife Natalie.
When his friends asked where Natalie lived he said "taint." Taint here, taint there, taint no where was the description he gave of Natalie's childhood home at the Cleveland Elmo junction,where he would later come to live. He taught in the Cache Valley for a year or two and he taught seminary. But, he always wanted to come home.
"Darrell was a man of God, country and a man of the gospel. The gospel offers hope. Darrell would want you to know there is a Savior. Darrell served a mission in Australia. He taught through his actions. Darrell loved the gospel. He knew who he was and he knew where he was going," said Law.
His friend mentioned his wife's uncle is Boyd K. Packer. "He is a special witness. You can feel his spirit. Pres. Packer teaches us you can have all the blessings if we but do His will. Darrell is progressing on now to a level of higher learning. This is God's church. Darrell was proud to be a priesthood holder. He was a doer of the work. He held to the rod to the end. He ran his race his way. Around that final curve, he sprinted to the end. Will we endure to the end. Darrell always said kick it in gear as his runners reached the end of their race. He wanted them to finish strong.
"Darrell will be there when we cross the finish line and he'll give us a big hug. Darrell was a small man in stature, but he was a giant of a man. Being a father was Darrell's greatest accomplishment. He is very proud of his children, Jake, Jax and D'Lee.
"Darrell had the opportunity to run the Olympic torch. I remember him running he made us all proud," said Law.
Darrell's friend quoted from the man who wrote the Winnie the Pooh series. "The wonderful thing about Tiggers is that Tiggers are wonderful things. Tiggers are bouncy. The wonderful thing about Tigger is he's the only one. Darrell was a one of a kind," said Law.
Shawn Mecham said the first time he met Darrell was in college. He told him he was from Orangeville. Darrell had a unique sense of humor that was truly his own. He told his friend. Do you know where San Francisco is? His friend answered yes, and Darrell said Orangeville is no where near there. At first Darrell was the manager for the track team and he would always run with them. Soon the coach wanted to know why he was the manager and put him on the team. One day Darrell was in the bathroom and let out a big yell. We ran in there to see what was the matter and Darrell said, "I did it," Did what we asked. "I got better lookin," he replied. His friends would tease him about being the same size now he was in college, and he would tell them, no I'm six ounces lighter now. He would lift up his hat and say see my hair all fell out. Darrell believed there were really 11 commandments and the 11th commandment was to eat two eggs each day and a bowl of ice cream.
"Darrell always put God first. We don't know why this had to happen, but Darrell leaves his testimony of the gospel with us. I will remember fondly the great life of Darrell Gardner," said Mecham.
Lee Moss, close friend and fellow teacher said Darrell was a busy man, "I got tired just watching Darrell. He liked to work hard. He loved to sweat. He knew the blessings that came from hard work. Gordon B. Hinckley said there is no substitute for hard labor. Darrell believed families grew closer together by participating in projects together. Once I asked Darrell what keeps you going. Darrell said, sometimes I get tired but then I looked down the ditch and saw D'Lee and Jax and I thought, I'm not working for myself. I'm working for them.
"Darrell and his family built a famous cattle ranch known throughout the west. He was helping with the Cottonwood Creek irrigation project to help them get funding. Darrell was always doing things for others. It was a privilege to work with Darrell. He was always working on a project and trying to figure things out. He wanted to give the kids something to do on New Year's Eve so he planned a dance. Darrell had a robust life. Darrell liked to talk people up. There's a little of Darrell in all of us and thank goodness for that. He saw the best in all of us."
Moss told Darrell's children what a hard worker Darrell was. He told them, "whenever they see a sprinkler system, or a cow they will start whistling and think of their dad and the man he was. Darrell taught us to work harder and dance sharper. He taught us that God loves us," said Moss.
Jimmy Atwood, Darrell's father in law said Darrell taught us to love one another. Darrell loved people. Darrell took a real interest in the kids he taught. The kids I've talked to said Darrell inspired them to do good. He inspired them to go to college. He inspired them to run faster.
Jimmy said one time Darrell and Natalie came to stay with him on the farm after he had a surgery and pretty soon they just took it over. Jimmy told how Darrell would just leave the water running in the field or the hay down ready to be baled and he would run off to a church meeting or other obligation. I ask you now. What was the most important? Taking care of his church obligations. That farm is still there. "But, look where Darrell's at today. What is the best thing for you to do? If you're not following Heavenly Father's counsel, then it's time to get your life in order. I'm going to miss the times I had with Darrell," said Jimmy.
"Kids, remember the things your father has taught you. Darrell had a new pivot. The water was spraying and Darrell was out there running along side it. He was excited. He was elated about this new water system.
"The Lord says to consider the blessed state of those who keep the commandments of God. They may dwell with God in a state of never ending happiness. Look at your lives. Look at what Darrell's accomplished with the kids in this valley," said Jimmy.
Jake Gardner said, "Dad was a good man. He taught me to work hard. Thank you for your support. Dad taught me to pray. One time a cow was having a hard time having a calf and we prayed for the cow and calf and everything turned out. We had a good time going to the stock shows. I hope I can be half the man my dad is."
D'Lee Gardner said that he was known as a coach, teacher and a farmer. "But, the best part is he's my Dad. He was amazing. He was my hero. I looked forward to dancing with him. He just glided. At track he would push me so hard. Sometimes I would say, Dad, just leave me alone, but he wouldn't he wanted me to be the best I could be. He was proud of me. I want to continue to make him proud. Dad loved my mom. When they kissed, it was disgusting. But, it was true love. When they danced together, it was like the world stopped. He was the best guy ever. And farming, even though I hate it, I can do it for him."
Natalie Gardner said, "Thanks for being a part of Darrell's life. Thanks for your thoughts and generosity. I know Darrell had a testimony and he loved God more than anything else. Thank you so much for what you've done for him. It's affected me and his children. Thank you."
Sherrel Ward, Darrell's uncle spoke next. He said he's never in his 65 years seen such an impressive sight as those who were gathered there for Darrell's funeral. "I've never seen such love. So many broken hearts and I don't think I ever will again. What was there about this man. Darrell was a different breed. What brought you here. Darrell was a man of God. I sit on the high council with Darrell. We would read scriptures and give our thoughts and ideas. Everyone would wait for what Darrell had to say. He knew his scriptures. He loved his family. One of his sayings was 'Pain is Temporary, but, Pride is Forever so shut up and run'. Darrell's way was just shut up and do it. Natalie, my heart bleeds for you. Twice in your life, you've loved deeply and twice they've been taken. I don't know why, but Tennyson said it's better to love and lose then never to have loved at all. At age 51, Darrell could still out run the kids. When Doris (Natalie's mother) died, Natalie, Darrell and the kids became our family. They gave much more to us.
"Darrell was willing to give all he had. We need to appreciate the sheriff, deputies and EMTs. I want to thank Capt. Kyle Ekker who was there. After the work was completed the night Darrell passed away then Capt. Ekker said, 'Sherrel, let's go home.'
"Darrell has gone home. Some say Darrell has work to do elsewhere. I do know Darrell knew he was a son of God and all of you are his brothers and sisters.
"I've heard that he who gives money gives a lot, but he who give himself gives all. That's what Darrell did. If Darrell were here he would say, 'Pain is temporary, life is eternal, shut-up and live'. We are a blessed people. He is going to be missed. It was a terrible accident, he's been accepted into the arms of the Savior and rests there in peace. May God be with you."
President LaVar Jensen said as he has thought about what happened he was reminded of Adam and Eve. They never knew what they had in the Garden of Eden until it was lost. The same with Brother Gardner. We never knew what we had until he was lost. Pres. Jensen told how since Darrell and Natalie were married in the temple, their work will go on in the eternities and will have no end.
Darrell was buried in the Cleveland Cemetery.
On Saturday, approximately 100 people gathered at Darrell's farm to complete some of Darrell's projects. A cement ditch was removed that isn't needed for watering any more. Trees were cleared. A granary was moved. Fence lines were fixed and general clean-up work was completed. The outpouring of love from the community and the sense of community pride has been very evident with the passing of Darrell Gardner.
The family wishes to express their thanks to everyone for their innumerable acts of kindness. People have been very supportive and have done the chores, watering and given unselfishly to the family to support and strengthen them in their time of need.