Obituary: Michael A Gard
February 22, 1942 – January 28, 2022
Nobody loved a good story more than Mike Gard. And nobody had more stories to tell than Mike. He lived many lives in his 79 years and he had stories in abundance. Born on February 22, 1942 he was determined to make his eightieth birthday on 2/22/2022, but his life was cut short and he left us to tell his story for him.
One of his stories was about chickens. Born in Athens, Texas, Mike was a farm boy who grew up working for a local chicken farm. In season he and his brother and sisters (Ron, Glenda, and Nancy) would get up at 4am to collect chickens from a local farmer to be sent for processing. At 14 Mike began driving those trucks full of chickens to Waco Texas, 100 miles away, leaving before daylight and arriving home just in time to attend – and often sleep through – high school. After graduating he kicked around Dallas for a while and then received a draft notice.
He decided to enlist in the Navy, as he loved ships and the ocean, but the local Navy recruiter was wearing a stained and tacky uniform, so Mike went next door and enlisted with the squared-away Marines. He often told the story of leaving Dallas in the sticky summer heat and disembarking in San Diego where he was greeted with cool air, soft with the fragrances of frangipani and honeysuckle. He committed right there on the tarmac to a life in California. After service in Vietnam, Mike returned to San Diego and attended San Diego State College. On a trip north, he happened onto Lake Tahoe and decided pine trees and snow made a nice change from beaches and sand.
His next life was in the casino world of 1970s Lake Tahoe where he met his future wife, Janna, a teacher at South Tahoe High School. He rose through the supervisory ranks in both Harrah’s and Harveys, ending his casino career as Assistant General Manager of both. He was well known for roaming throughout the buildings talking to everyone from the cleaning staff to the General Manager. And boy could he talk! He had a million stories and loved to share them with anyone willing to listen. But as the world of casinos joined the world of big corporations, Mike moved on to his next life.
In the mid-1990s he moved to Alpine County. He purchased the building housing the Post Office in Markleeville and opened a convenience store next to the post office. He became the unofficial Markleeville greeter as on weekends he had a big barbeque wagon outside and was easily recognizable in his favorite gear: a Hawaiian shirt paired with camo pants. After a few years he leased the store front to other businesses moving into town and took some time off. But bored, he picked up some other interests along the way: he worked at the STPUD ranch in Alpine County, was a volunteer fireman with the Alpine County department where he loved to cook for training meetings, volunteered as a board member on the Markleeville Water Board, and even worked at the Chamber of Commerce for a year.
During this busy life, Mike had four children – Jason, Chad, David and Jillian. Each of them is very like Mike in their own way and all of them are great cooks, like their dad. Mike’s greatest joys were his 8 grandchildren: Anna, Ryan, Sierra, Brett, Matti, Jake, Ellie and Emma. He delighted in their accomplishments, watching them mature and succeed in their own pursuits. He taught them to love nature, to love good food, and to be kind to others.
Mike loved people: he would introduce himself to strangers in a store or on a plane and within minutes knew their life stories. He was compassionate and concerned for anyone in need and generous with his time and money. Even choked with Covid (despite being vaccinated and boosted), he was charming the nurses at CVMC until the day of his death. He was an inveterate story-teller, always ending his story with a big laugh and his famous smile. He was truly a good human being and will missed by all his friends and family.
A Memorial Celebration for his life will be held in late May at the Carson Valley Country Club in Gardnerville – details to be announced later.
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