CVAS: A Tribute to Nancy Gardner


It has taken me weeks to feel like I was ready to write this column and I’m still not sure I can do it, but I’m going to try.

Nancy Gardner, the president of our board of directors, passed away in February.

That sentence alone was tough to type. It just doesn’t feel real, even though it was a month ago. She was my editor for these columns. As I would write each week, I would think about her and her editing skills. She knew grammar better than anyone I have ever met.

Now as I write, I feel the absence.

She told me she always wanted me to write a column like this for her when she passed away. I used to tell her not to talk like that because she wasn’t going anywhere. I really was utterly unprepared for this to happen this soon.

As were a lot of people.

She was greeting visitors at the shelter on a Friday and she was gone that Sunday night. Even as I talk about it here, there’s part of me that still can’t believe it. It’s almost difficult to really put into words or adequately describe how unbelievable this is.

Nancy was such a presence and a driving force at the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter for so long. She was a part of the organization for as long as I can remember and she was someone who I always thought would be here.

She attended just about every fundraiser we had and just days before her death had gathered volunteers at a meeting to plan more. She just kept going and she did it because she believed in the cause. She believed in helping animals.

We are planning a tribute to her. We’re not sure exactly what it will be at the moment, because the sentiment with which I began this column is true for all of us – we’re still reeling from losing her. Rest assured, she will be immortalized at the shelter she worked so hard to create.

There are absolutes that I know will never, ever change. Nancy Gardner loved her husband, Bill. The two were married for 57 years. He passed away about two years ago and I know she missed him every day.

Nancy loved and utterly adored her three girls, Rachel, Dana and Becky, as well as her sons-in-law and all of her grandchildren. Photos lined her home of family and she took many trips to visit them. I know spending time with her children and grandchildren was a highlight of her life.

And Nancy loved her animals. She had so many pets over the years and loved to tell stories about them. The four-legged babies she had at the time of her passing were truly cherished and a big part of her life. Her daughters took the animals with them and I know that meant the world to Nancy.

I have many moments throughout my day when I will remember her, so I know she isn’t truly gone. Not in our hearts and memories.

I must confess, I don’t know how to end this column. Part of me doesn’t want to conclude this because I don’t want to admit that she is gone.

Although another part of me doesn’t feel like this is an end. Nancy’s efforts and influence cannot and will not be forgotten. What she began and created will continue. For someone who gave so much of herself to others and animals, that doesn’t just go away.

In my mind’s eye, I see her sitting on a lovely porch with Bill, sharing a cocktail, and the two are absolutely surrounded by animals. I remember saying to someone at some point in this past month that when Nancy crossed over, she must have been walking through a sea of four-legged friends who were waiting for her.

To her family, I send all the love in my heart while they navigate a world without their mom.

To Nancy, I say, simply, thank you. I learned so very many lessons from who she was and I know the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter would not be what it is today without her.

In her memory, we will continue what she began – to work for the animals who have no voice but ours.

Rest in peace, Nancy. You will be missed by many here on earth until we see one another again.

Jennifer Vanderau is the Publication and Promotions Consultant for the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter and can be reached at The shelter accepts both monetary and pet supply donations. For more information, call the shelter at 717-263-5791 or visit the website


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