In Memory of



Obituary for Deborah Gardner

Deborah Powell Gardner died on May 11, 2020 surrounded by her loving family. Born and raised in Moorestown, NJ she moved to Monmouth County, Ocean Township when she married her loving husband of 52 years, Jim Gardner.

She is predeceased by her father, Jack Powell of Moorestown, NJ and her mother Mary Leonard Powell of Shallotte, North Carolina. She is survived by her most precious children Elizabeth Howard and her husband Peter, Wall, NJ, Jaime Strauss and her husband Stan, Little Silver, NJ, John Gardner and his wife Heather, Brick, NJ and Erik Gardner and his wife Jodi, Spring Lake Heights, NJ and the stars in her eyes and song in her heart her nine beautiful grandchildren, Hannah, Ryan, Cooper, Johnny, Maggie, Jackson, Henry, Mason and Phoebe. Deborah is also survived by her sister, Priscilla Clark and nieces Jessica, Ashley, and Whitney.

Peace be with you. Peter Pan has left the building.

Arrangements are under the care of Orender Family Home for Funerals, Manasquan. Burial will be private at Greenwood Cemetery, Brielle, NJ, In Deborah’s caring spirit memorial donations may be made to St Jude Children’s Research Hospital online at


Mom was an amazing woman- totally selfless. She gave everything she had to dad, and Liz, John, Erik and me. We were her whole life…until she got her job with Marty, and she gave whatever she had left to him and his practice. She worked tirelessly for Marty for 30 years, while still doing it all at home. I am imagining them reunited in Heaven, but hopefully not working so hard.

Unfortunately, that giving nature left little time for mom to really pursue her own interests – did you know she loved poetry and flowers, and plays and classic novels? Gone with the Wind was her favorite movie, and Scarlet O’Hara’s “I’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day,” became mom’s mantra. One passion, though, was never overlooked – the piano. Most of you know about this or have even been blessed with hearing mom play. Her talent was amazing, and the sounds of the piano were always in the background of our house growing up – along with the many different pianos dad got her (whether she wanted them or not). Recently, my cousin Mark let mom know that she was his inspiration for learning to play the piano. She loved playing, even composing her own song for her children. I can see her now sitting with Bill Madden in the Kingdom of Heaven tickling the ivories.

Once we all got married, she lovingly accepted Peter, Stan, Heather and Jodi, and their families, as her own, and expanded her circle of love. Her heart filled even more as we started to have children. Her selflessness spilled over into helping all of us with our own families and homes.

Granny was Peter Pan. She refused to grow up. Her young grandchildren kept her childlike, and she told them she wanted them to remember her as someone who “absolutely refused to be boring and predictable.” She truly had a special relationship with all of her grandchildren. Hannah, Ryan, Cooper, Maggie, Johnny, Jack, Mason, Henry and Phoebe were all the apple of Granny’s eye – each in their own way. She enjoyed watching Susan and Sami grow into beautiful young women, and even reached the coveted status of great-grandma to Henry, Jackson, Lilah and Coralie.

It was always a party at the Gardner house, as my cousins Nick and Eddie also recently reminded us of fun Christmas Eve celebrations with roaring fires and mom playing Christmas songs on the piano. Mom loved entertaining all her nieces and nephews. Mom, right from the start, fit in with dad’s side of the family enjoying many good times with Dot and Big Ed, Susie, Marty, Barbara, Duck and Eddie. She, and dad, created a world for Liz, John, Erik and myself that was always “75 and sunny”; even if it wasn’t always perfect, they always made it seem so. To this day, we try to maintain this climate in our own families in the hopes that we can give our children the same wonderful life that mom and dad have given us.

Mom was also delighted to have her nieces Jessica and Whitney move close by with their husbands, Michael and Ken, and watch her great-nephews Luca and Jack grow into adorable little boys. That also meant more visits from the South from her sister, Priscilla, and niece Ashley and her husband Eric. Her extended family grew and grew and included many beloved friends as well. Our friends became her friends.

We cannot remember mom without mentioning “The Point,” our family’s coastal North Carolina home. Mom spent a lot of time as a child, and as an adult with her children and grandchildren, at this beautiful spot swimming in the healing waters of the Shallotte River, hanging out at the shoal, fishing off the dock, enjoying good old-fashioned “fish frys” and teaching us to dig clams with our toes. She loved being around her aunts, uncles and 21 first cousins and their families!

We have countless memories to keep us moving forward. Mom was the glue that kept our family together and the bond she created among all of us is unbreakable. We are comforted by the image of her entering the Pearly Gates to join the party with Uncle John, Aunt Judy, Uncle Tom, and Stephen, and to be reunited with her parents, Nanny and Pop-Pop.

We have named a star in the sky: Deborah Gardner, so she will always be with us in the heavens and in our hearts until we see her again.

About a year ago, my son Cooper and I were lucky enough to have her join us on our first college visit up in Boston, where she went to school, and catch a performance of Hamilton at the Boston Opera House. So I would like to end with a poem written by Alexander Hamilton when he was 18, modeled after his favorite poet Alexander Pope, which describes a soul ascending into heaven. This is what I envision for mom and all of the loved ones who have gone before us:

“The Soul Entering Into Bliss”

AH! whither, whither, am I flown,
A wandering guest in worlds unknown?
What is that I see and hear?
What heav’nly music fills mine ear?
Ethereal glories shine around;
More than Arabia’s sweets abound.

Hark! hark! a voice from yonder sky,
Methinks I hear my Savior cry,
Come gentle spirit come away,
Come to thy Lord without delay;
For thee the gates of bliss unbar’d
Thy constant virtue to reward.

I come oh Lord! I mount, I fly,
On rapid wings I cleave the sky;
Stretch out thine arm and aid my flight;
For oh! I long to gain that height,
Where all celestial beings sing
Eternal praises to their King.

O Lamb of God! thrice gracious Lord
Now, now I feel how true thy word;
Translated to this happy place,
This blessed vision of thy face;
My soul shall all thy steps attend
In songs of triumph without end.

Thank you all for being here with us today.