Service set for leader on 1953 bridge project
What: Warren Gardner Celebration of Life Service
Where: Hotel Colorado
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, June 21.
Contributions: Instead of flowers, the family asks that donations in Gardner’s memory be made to Hospice through Intermountain Home and Health Care in St. George, Utah.
Glenwood Springs’ Grand Avenue bridge is in the works of being replaced — 62 years after the late Warren Gardner helped lead construction of the present structure.
Gardner, who died March 18 at age 89, was a project superintendent in 1953 with his brother to build the current bridge. After a lawsuit challenging the Garfield County commissioners’ authority to contribute to the $550,000 cost, the new bridge replaced one that was more the 50 years old and criticized as “barely wide enough for two large trucks to pass.”
A memorial service for Gardner is planned later this month overlooking the bridge, at the Hotel Colorado.
Gardner’s second wife, Darlene, said her husband would’ve supported replacing one of the signature projects of his career. She said she and Gardner drove over the bridge within the past year, and were in awe of the large amount of traffic and small amount of space.
“I think he would’ve said, ‘Yes, this has to be done,’” said Darlene, Gardner’s wife of 33 years.
Gardner grew up in Glenwood, worked for the family construction business, Gardner Construction Co., and moved around before settling in St. George, Utah.
“Colorado was Warren’s love,” Darlene said. “He was so proud to be from Colorado, and he talked about Glenwood Springs all the time.”
Gardner Construction flourished, especially during the time the Grand Avenue bridge was built. Owned by Gardner’s dad and uncle, the company bid on the project to replace the bridge in 1953. Construction began just two weeks later, and finished in a total of six weeks.
“Back in those days we didn’t have near the regulations and entanglements that we do now,” said Dick Prosence, a retired district engineer who often worked with Gardner. “In those days, if the highway department decided to build something, they just went ahead and did it.”
Prosence often had authority over projects Gardner Construction worked on, so he said he got to know Gardner well.
“I always had a good relationship with Gardner Construction,” Prosence said. “Warren was a very diligent person.”
Darlene told a Gardner story of when the old bridge was being replaced and needed to be taken apart. She said the old truss bridge was intended to be transported somewhere else for use, but that didn’t happen.
“Warren pulled out one pin, and the whole bridge fell into the Colorado River,” Darlene said.
She said Gardner battled dementia near the end of his life, which was difficult.
“He was a very smart man,” Darlene said.
Gardner was active in many areas throughout his life. He served in the Army in World War II, formed another construction company, CBW Builders, and was chairman of the Mesa County Republican Party, among other things.
“He was a forward-thinking person,” Darlene said. “He was a person who made things happen,” she said.
Darlene and some family members organized a memorial on June 21 in Gardner’s beloved hometown of Glenwood. Anyone who knew Gardner is welcome to come celebrate his life and pay their respects.
“Warren loved to party, and it’ll be a wonderful celebration,” she said.
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