The passing of Marge Gardiner will touch many Pine River locals, as she and her husband were among those community members everyone knew.
“She is one of the last grandchildren of a pioneer family, and Pine River was very, very important for Marge. She lived here almost her entire life,” said Colleen (Cromett) Moser, whose father was Marge’s first cousin.
As former owners of the local hardware store, Marge and her husband, Paul, were staples to the community. Paul’s passing was widely felt throughout Pine River in 2012, and Marge’s passing July 21 will be no different. She endeared herself to those in her life simply through her sincere interest in their happiness.
“Marge was known by everyone in the community over all the years she and Paul were in the hardware store. I know she paid very close attention to weddings and births and deaths and birthdays,” said neighboring business owner John Wetrosky, who knew Gardiner since purchasing his business in 1978. “One of the things I always remember about her is she had a drawer full of those type of cards in her desk, and she didn’t miss too many occasions sending out a card for someone that had one of those occasions.”
“One thing I always remember about Marge and Paul is that they showed up for absolutely everything. If it was a graduation, if it was a funeral, if it was a wedding, they always enjoyed being invited and they always came,” Moser said. “She was very kind and giving and she always remembered people’s birthdays. She called everybody ‘kids’ whether they were 2 or 92. So that was always a lift when you saw her.”
Comfort can certainly be found in the fact that she passed peacefully at age 92.
A Christmas baby, Marge’s life was always tied to the well-being of the city of Pine River. She was born in a home that was located just behind what eventually became Gardiner’s Hardware, and her parents owned the first bakery and restaurant in Pine River. She prided herself in graduating from the Pine River school without missing a day.
“She was always good-hearted about Pine River,” Wetrosky said.
She showed her passion for her town through contributions in time and money. She worked at the Marlow Theater and the Pine River School. She had a large part in founding the first Girl Scout troop in Pine River, she was a member of the board at the Pine River First Methodist Church. She donated to local causes such as Heritage Group North.
Moser said Marge celebrated every Memorial Day by putting flowers on the grave of anyone who was even remotely related to her within the Pine River Cemetery. She was placing flowers with the help of her son and daughter-in-law the last time Moser saw her.
“I just think she lived a good life in a small town, and I think it was probably as rich and full a life as you can live in an area like this,” Wetrosky said. “She was always interesting because she knew a lot of the history of Pine River and there weren’t too many people she didn’t know. That was always a fun experience being able to visit like that.”
Gardiner held a degree in business and worked at the hardware store she and her husband owned for 45 years, though she remained at the store another 10 years.
Wetrosky said Gardiner was a greeter at the local hardware store likely long before Walmart ever thought of the idea. Gary Gardiner was their only child, and it was to him that they sold the family business in 1992.