LANCASTER — Ray Everette Gardner, 79, of Lancaster, passed away Sunday morning, July 31, 2022, at his home, surrounded by his loving family.
Born in the Flat Creek community of Lancaster County on Sept. 24, 1942, Ray was the son of the late Gilbert and Georgia Gardner. Ray graduated from Flat Creek High School and attended Wingate University with a focus in church music.
After beginning his work career at Grace Bleachery, he moved to E.I. DuPont as an engineering mechanic, retiring after 27 years. After a brief retirement, Ray embarked on a new career as a sales agent for Kanawha Insurance Co.
Ray also had a passion for local government and served the community as a member of Lancaster County Council for three terms, while also serving as chairman for eight years. With a visionary outlook and collaborative spirit, Ray transitioned to the office of Lancaster County Economic Development, serving as both assistant director and director until his battle with Parkinson’s disease necessitated his retirement.
Throughout his life, one of Ray’s passions was church music. He faithfully served as music director for both adult and youth choirs, beginning at Flat Creek Baptist for two years in 1967. He then served Pleasant Dale Baptist for three years, Oakhurst Baptist for six years, and concluded his bi-vocational ministry at Buffalo Baptist, where he served for 24 years. Ray also served as music director for the Kershaw County Baptist Association for seven years while at Buffalo Baptist.
Ray’s passion for his youth choirs and mission opportunities culminated at Buffalo Baptist, with choir tours to Myrtle Beach for 11 consecutive summers, performing daily concerts while sharing the gospel at Springmaid Beach, Broadway at the Beach, the Boardwalk and surrounding campgrounds and malls.
Ray was most recently a faithful member of Second Baptist Church, the Bencouragers Life Group, and sang in the adult choir until Parkinson’s disease took his voice, but not his love for his church.
Ray also loved supporting the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, attending football games, along with a few basketball and baseball games each season, as long as his health permitted, while also serving the Lancaster County Gamecock Club. He also loved to travel, daily read The State newspaper, and followed local and state politics. More than anything, Ray loved his family and cherished spending time with them.
Until he was disabled, Ray served in leadership positions for local and state Parkinson’s disease associations. He was a strong and vocal advocate for Parkinson’s research and fundraising, having traveled to and lobbied in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Parkinson’s disease research and funding.
Ray is survived by his loving wife of 58 years, Pauline Byrd Gardner, who was his high school sweetheart. He is also survived by his son, Christopher Ray Gardner and wife, LeAnne, of Rock Hill; and his daughter, Julie Paulette Gardner Davis and her husband, Tony, of Lancaster. Ray was blessed with five grandchildren, including Austin Christopher Gardner and his wife, Amy, of Orange, Va.; Madison Marie Gardner and Vivian Lee Gardner, both of Rock Hill; and Hannah Julianne Davis and Gracen Faith Davis of Lancaster. Ray was also anticipating his first great-grandchild in September. His dog and buddy, Zack, will definitely miss him as well.
In addition to his parents, Ray was preceded in death by his siblings, Bill Gardner, Minor Gardner, Helen Gardner Sistare, Robert Gardner, Shelton Gardner and Don Gardner.
Visitation for Ray’s family will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, at Burgess Funeral Home in Lancaster.
His celebration of life service will be at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, at Second Baptist Church in Lancaster. Dr. Brian Saxon, Dr. David Carlton, the Revs. Larry Helm and Stan Sullivan will officiate.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in memory of Ray may be made to the following: Flat Creek Baptist Church, 3737 Victory Road, Kershaw, SC 29067; Second Baptist Church, 1426 Great Falls Highway, Lancaster, SC 29720; or Amedisys Hospice, 1900 Sunset Blvd., West Columbia, SC 29169.
An online guest register is available for condolences on the obituaries page at www.burgessfunerals.com.
Burgess Funeral Home and Crematory of Lancaster is caring for the family of Mr. Ray Gardner.