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U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
Jim Gardner, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Retired)April 18, 1932 – April 1, 2021
Midwest City – Lt. Colonel (USAF – Retired) Jim Gardner passed away on April 1, 2021 at 88. He was born in Philadelphia, Mississippi on April 18, 1932 to Ross and Dora Gardner and attended a one room school house with a graduating class of 4. He was a sharecropper’s son who learned at an early age the meaning of hard work. As a child, he would lean on a hoe handle and watch planes fly over saying that one day he was going to fly a plane. His dream came true when he enlisted in the US Air Force in 1953. While attending pilot training at Vance AFB in Enid, OK, another dream came true when he met the love of his life, Marjorie Ann (Perkins) Gardner (from Fairview, OK) on a blind date. For him, it was love at first sight. They were married on October 30, 1955.
He flew C-124s, C-141s and ended his career as one of the first C-5 Pilots in the country. He was fortunate to have been stationed at Tinker AFB, transferred to Charleston AFB in the 60s and retired in 1972, where he returned to Tinker to work as a civil servant. He flew rescue helicopters in Vietnam and received the Bronze Star for heroic achievement. He loved to say “How many people can say that they have flown around the world 2 times and been to the Neshoba County Fair?”
Jim loved to work with Margie in the yard and garden, and they received Midwest City’s “Yard of the Month” Award. He also loved camping, boating and fishing. He was a proud member of Midwest Boulevard Christian Church. He was most excited to decorate for Halloween and Christmas and climbed on the roof to do so well into his eighties. His Grandkids and Great Grandkids were his greatest joy. He and Margie loved to watch movies, sharing a love of Saturday matinees from their childhoods. He loved all war movies and westerns, especially John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and the Three Stooges.
He is preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Margie, and his mother, father and brother, Jack. He is survived by three children, Kathy Lollar, Jimmy (Debbie) Gardner, and Cindy (Deanie) Gardner; four grandchildren, Stephanie (Heath) Webb, Hannah (Jesse) Waddell, Joey Lollar and Tanner Gardner; and two great-grandchildren, Payton and Adelyn Webb. He is also survived by his beloved cat buddy, Pistol Pete.
The family would appreciate hearing stories/memories at www.oklahomacitycremation.com
The family will arrange a graveside service at a later date.
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Published in Oklahoman from Apr. 2 to Apr. 4, 2021.https://obits.oklahoman.com/obituaries/oklahoman/obituary.aspx?n=jim-gardner&pid=198232914
~ BRONZE STAR CITATION ~
~ THE STORY OF THE BRONZE STAR MISSION ~
1967 – April 09; A HH-3E, #65-12785 (Call sign “Jolly Green 36”) from Det. 2, 37th ARRS, Udorn RTAFB, Thailand, crewed by Capt. James R. Lisko (P), Maj. Jim Gardner (CP), A2C Roger L. Graham (FM) and SSgt. John H. Stemple (PJ) rescued the severely injured pilot of a civilian Air America Dornier aircraft, Mr. Justin C. Bryant, from Laos. During this mission the PJ from “Jolly Green 36”, SSgt. Stemple was lowered to the ground to get the injured pilot into a ‘stokes’ litter. SSgt. Stemple determined that the injured pilot would have to be moved to a clearer location so he would be clear of trees and could be hoisted out. SSgt. Stemple could not move him by himself and the PJ, A1C Michael P. Benno, from the second HH-3E “Jolly Green 55”, crewed by Maj. Glen P. York (P), 1st Lt. Mark H. Mutchler (CP), SSgt. Raymond D. Godsey (FM) and A1C Michael P. Benno (PJ), was lowered to the ground to help. After over a half hour on the ground the two PJ’s were still not able to move the injured pilot over the rough terrain to an area where he could be hoisted. The co-pilot, Maj. Jim Gardner, from “Jolly Green 36” volunteered to ride the hoist down and help move the injured pilot. Finally they were able to move to an area where the ‘stokes’ litter could be hoisted and “Jolly Green 36” was able to rescue his co-pilot, the two PJ’s and the injured pilot. Maj. Jim Gardner has the distinction of being the only “Jolly Green” co-pilot intentionally hoisted to the ground during a CSAR mission in the Vietnam War. USAF RotorHeads “Time-Line” page
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