Edward Hilton Gardner
Edward Hilton Gardner was born Oct 5th 1934 in Siluria Alabama to Willie and Mary Grace (Hodge) Gardner. He attended Thompson High School until April 1953. He joined the Army where he spent 22 years serving his country. He had formal training as a Combat Engineer. But his love was being a Combat Infantryman (Airborne). Ed served in 82nd, Airborne Division, 11th Airborne, 101st, 173rd and 20th special forces. He had many adventures to include several Combat jumps, he was a Senior Drill Instructor and Master Parachutists. He attended Jungle Warfare school, Artic Warfare school and Desert Warfare school. Awards include Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Parachutists Badge, Combat Infantry Badge and numerous other awards. He also graduated from University of Montevallo in December of 1979 with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration.
He passed away December 26th at his home in Alabaster. Ed always had Lydia Marie (Poole) Gardner by his side. They were married for over 51 years and had 5 children.
He is preceded in death by his parents Willie and Mary Grace Gardner, sisters Audrey Gardner Fondren, Myra Gardner McFadden, Naomi Gardner Fondren.
He is survived by his wife Lydia Marie Gardner, children Mike (Leslie) Causey, Denise (Charles)Parker, Bryan (Diana) Causey, Tim (Amanda) Gardner, Robert (Robin) Gardner. His Grandchildren Breann (Jake) Rimington, Reid and Cole Gardner, Chandler Smith, Avery Dyer, Amanda (Alan) Martin, Josh (Brooke), Ashley, Victoria, Abigail and Morgan Causey, Shaun (Tamara) Abke. Great grandchildren Dylan, Hannah, Riley, Van, Isabella, Drew, Allie, Gracie and Aaron.
A special thank you to Affinity Hospice Services for their kindness and unwavering support during his transition.
A graveside service for Edward will be held Wednesday, December 30, 2020 at Elliotsville Cemetery at 2:00 p.m.
Mr. Ed was a wonderful, sweet man with a great sense of humor. I’ve always enjoyed spending time with Ed and Marie. He will be missed by so many!
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family Mike.
The earliest memory I have of Dad is when I was around 5 or 6 and all I remember is beating up his knees and saying you’re not my Dad. He laughed that laugh of his while holding me back.. I don’t recall much until later when Dad took us fishing at some river. I remember having a Zebco 22 and he had a much bigger Zebco 33, it was all shiny and man did I want one. I don’t recall if Denise and Bryan or Mom were there…it seemed just like it was Dad and I. Dad seemed so big back then. Just in pants and a white t-shirt. I think for me the best time I spent with Him was when we were fishing, there was not much talk, and I took to fishing pretty well. He showed and I copied. He taught me patience.
I also remember playing Army as a kid and Dad letting me use some of his Web gear, the shoulder straps and belt that held ammo bags and canteen. I was hot stuff cause I had the Actual gear and my friends were all envious. Until we moved on base and everyone had it… he was gone a lot.
Dad was really the first person who I thought of as bigger than anything in life..he was my first Hero, I never saw him afraid of anything (except Mom) when I was young, I suspect as did most kids. I know as I got older and starting becoming the know it all that I thought I was …well he wouldn’t argue too much.
In November 1965 he was in the 1st Battalion, 503r d Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne and took part in the first large battle of the Vietnam war, Operation Hump was a search and destroy mission. 49 lost their lives and over 88 wounded on 8-9 Nov 1965. A song and documentary by Big and Rich memorialized the battle. I learned just a few years back that this is where he was wounded. Dad never talked about Vietnam with me, I asked many times and he would shrug it off and said he didn’t remember.
A few years back he asked me to look up operation Hump when Leslie and I were sitting on the back porch one morning, I had never heard of it. I started looking into it and found a book by Al Conetto on the battle and later the Big and Rich song was in reference. It reminded me of “We were soldiers once…and Young” By Gen. Moore and Joe Galloway. I read a small bit of it to Dad, and he started nodding his head…in his right hand, then he started to sob and said,” I don’t want to hear anymore…”
I learned on my last visit with Dad just a few weeks ago that he was haunted by that battle. He didn’t remember the name of his radioman who was killed….he spent the night scared to death… God only knows what men do in war …He was my hero
We lived on base and off depending on where Dad was stationed. It seemed like we moved every year. Fort Campbell, off base to Hopkinsville, Fort Bragg, off Base to Fayetteville or Clarksville.. and every time I lost friends and had to make new ones. Neighbors would disappear seemingly overnight on base. I lost a lot of friends then and not until a little later did I understand why, when your Dad is killed in action you have to move out of base housing… He was gone 13 months to Korea and we just carried on. I pushed the limits with Mom quite a bit then. He was gone a lot.
Dad graduated Drill Instructor school at Fort Jackson, SC. in 1969, where I later went to Basic. We moved to Fort Polk LA and stayed for 4 years. the longest I had lived anywhere. Dad was in his element, training troops who went directly to Vietnam after graduation. My playground was the obstacle course and I watched many a soldier crawl the course while M-60 machine guns fired tracer rounds just 2 feet over their heads….at night.
Back then Dads friends were all Army buddies and I did spend quite a bit of time with him as he checked on His troops and just listening to the conversations. I was old enough to go to with him in that old Red 67 beetle he drove every day.
I learned that Dad taught at West Point, he and Mom traveled a lot when we were younger, often just picking up and taking off. It was a theme that played out with Mom and Dad for many years, only ending a few years ago as Dads health became an issue. He often talked about coming back to Texas to visit. He often asked if I watched “Texas country reporter”, he dearly loved that show.
On one visit he and Mom toured Donella’s (my brother in laws Mom) Fiesta Dress shop, where they took the better part of a year to make dresses for the San Antonio Debutants for Fiesta. He said he really didn’t care about dresses until he saw them. Later that visit he had about 20 deer that came regularly into the yard to eat deer corn lined up, all facing one direction…just like his Drill Instructor days. He yelled at Mom, “Take a picture!” You can take the Man out of the Army….but you can’t take the Army out of the man. Brian Keller still talks about that day, Dad made a big impression on him. I still talk about that day…he was my hero
I last saw Dad one week before he became whole again, He called and said come home. I already had plans to come a week later but he told me “come now,” I am glad I did…as we got ready to leave I hugged my Dad one last time and he said “I love you Mike, I don’t think I will ever see you again” he was crying, we all were…he knew, I knew.
I talked with Dad three days before he passed, I said “I love you dad…” broken up inside and bawling I said, “you know you’re my Hero right?” he was weak but said “yes ,thank you”
He is being laid to rest as I write this. Its about 2:15 PM, my heart breaks that I am not there to say goodbye again.
Rest in peace Dad! My Hero
Ed and Marie were our neighbors on Monte Tierra Trail. Tom and Ed would get together in the middle of the street and discuss life in the Army or whether the government was doing true justice to the Armed Forces. My son Michael, was good friends with Robert andTim and all the time my daughter, Julie had a crush on Robert. They were great neighbors and I will never forget them and all the good times the children had. I would like to get the up to date address and phone numbers of Marie. Being a widow is tough and I would like to be of help for her. Someone please contact me. My address is number 35 and my phone is 205 5276338. Would like to reconnect. Polly Seales email is [email protected] Outlook. Com