Dick Gardner served in the Army during WW II. He spent most of his time in the Pacific patrolling the Philippines. On one assignment he was given a secret code machine and taught to send and receive cryptic messages. “And here’s a .45 pistol,” he was told. “Empty most of the clip into the machine if you think you are going to get captured . . . and save one bullet for yourself.”
One day Dick heard about a Sgt. Gardner among the thousands of troops passing through the area. Going AWOL to search for the man, Dick eventually found him–his estranged 38 year old father.
In summer of 2013, Debby Rampolla and director Paula Kelly of Whitehall Public Library contacted us about a group of veterans who meet each month at the library and share their stories of military service. This sounds a lot like what we do through The Veterans Breakfast Club, we responded, and we were interested in visiting the group someday to introduce ourselves and to share our story as well.
That day came at the end of October 2013, when we were graciously welcomed to attend the Whitehall veterans’ group meeting and to record some of their stories. Seven local veterans attended that day; it was a comfortably intimate group, mostly old friends and a few new comers. On some meeting days, two dozen veterans might show up. Very often, just a handful of older gentlemen turn up, WW II stories in hand. Regardless, the veterans are openly welcomed by the gracious library staff with gourmet coffee and assorted pastries—irresistible incentives to warm the mood and prime the storytelling.
On the day we visited, we were warmly met by veterans Bill McLaughlin, Dave Lotz, Dick Gardner, George Morgan, Gerald Goslak, Hal Plusa, and Joe Michaels. Todd DePastino, executive director of The Veterans Breakfast Club, served to guide the discussions, while Kevin Farkas captured the roundtable banter as an audio recording—now available to the public on this website.
Seven Pittsburgh area veterans share stories of their military experiences at Whitehall Public Library. Featuring Bill McLaughlin, Dave Lotz, Dick Gardner, George Morgan, Gerald Goslak, Hal Plusa, Joe Michaels.
Recorded as part of the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Initiative at Whitehall Public Library, Whitehall, PA, October 30, 2013.
Interviewer: Todd DePastino, executive director of The Veterans Breakfast Club. Audio: Kevin Farkas.
On December 30, 2018, Richard A. Gardner, 92, of Bethel Park, PA, left his cherished family to join his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was the loving and loyal husband of 60 years to Shirley; best and cherished father to Alan and Lori (Kenneth); and greatest Papa on the planet to Kristy (Andrew), Lindsay (Matthew), and Jimmy. He was the proudest WWII veteran to wear a uniform. After retirement, he dedicated his life to volunteering, first by visiting heart patients at Mercy Hospital and most recently by sharing his stories with over 1000 veterans in nursing homes. Richard was also a dedicated and faithful member of Hamilton Presbyterian Church since 1971. He was the kindest, most compassionate, and loving man we have ever known, and we will carry the stories, the laughter, and his love with us forever. A Memorial Service will be held at Hamilton Presbyterian Church at a later date.