Lorraine Marion (Burgess) Gardner of Montclair, a dietitian and coordinator of senior citizen programs who was long active in civic and church associations, died on Oct. 31. She was 93.
Mrs. Gardner was born to Charlotte and Berkeley Hazard Burgess in Montclair on Oct. 18, 1927. She was the second of three children, all born in the Burgess home with a midwife’s help.
She attended the Nishuane and Hillside schools and Montclair High School. After graduation she enrolled in the Manhattan General Hospital dietitian program; upon completion of her courses she worked and lived at the hospital for several years.
In 1954 she started her career at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville as a certified dietitian, eventually becoming head dietitian.
Mrs. Gardner met her husband, Harry, through a family friend. One snowy night in the early 1940s her mother noticed a woman standing at the bus stop in front of the Burgess home and told her daughter to invite the woman in because the buses had stopped running. The woman was her husband’s mother, Ruth Gardner; she stayed the night and became a lifelong family friend.
Mrs. Gardner married Mr. Gardner in 1952. A little over a year later she gave birth to Lenore Marie Gardner; in 1957 their family was completed when a son, Howard Stanley Gardner, was born.
But shortly after Howard’s birth Mr. Gardner went to work and never returned. For six months the family had no idea where he was; they then learned he’d had a horrific accident and suffered severe brain damage. He was confined to a hospital for the remainder of his life, leaving Mrs. Gardner to raise the two children, and died in 1987.
In 1967 Mrs. Gardner was hired by the city of Paterson to coordinate its seniors program, which included the pilot program of Meals on Wheels. She had four sites that offered seniors in Paterson socialization and seasonal entertainment. Often, Frank Penn, principal of East Orange High School and family friend, would bring troubled youth to her for a job. She hired them but would be quick to fire them if they did not do what was required.
She worked for the city until her retirement in 1991. At that time, the mayor of Paterson presented her with the city’s Outstanding Civil Service Award. She received many other awards for her work, including the National Caucus on Black Aging Award in 1982 and the National Association for Nutrition and Aging Award in 1983.
Her civic responsibility continued after retiring. She, Sis Cummings and her sister, Phyllis, formed a neighborhood group that would often petition Montclair’s council members to address problems in the community. She also joined the Status of Women, an organization that supported women victims of domestic violence.
Mrs. Gardner was also involved with the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, the oldest Black welfare organization in America.
Faith was a hallmark of her life. She joined Trinity Presbyterian Church in 1949 and was a deacon and an elder, and sang in the choir. She began the scholarship program for high school graduates from Trinity.
Mrs. Gardner’s devotion to her husband and kids was exemplary. Every Sunday they visited their father in the VA hospital. She led a rich life that impacted many people.
She is survived by her son, Howard, and many cousins, nieces and nephews, along with their families.
Arrangements were by Martin’s Home for Service.