He was born on the north side of Spokane on January 25th, 1932, the second of four boys and two girls.
Most of his family members served in the American military. His brother Eugene was a soldier, who fought in the Korean war, Jim was in the navy, his brother Philip was in the navy and brother Donald was in the coast guard. He also had two sisters, Jenetta and Gayle. “I have been all over the world and always come home to Spokane,” said the former sailor.
His grandparents owned land near Kings Canyon, now known as 5 mile and 7 mile. The family grew up there, his dad was a logger and his mother a homemaker.
Jim joined the navy in 1951 and after boot camp joined the USS Essex, an aircraft carrier that would join the war off the coast of Korea. The Essex carried the Douglas A-1 Skyraider (formerly AD) the F4U Corsair and F2H Banshee, one of America’s first jet fighters.
Jim’s job on the Essex was damage control, to “keep the balance of the ship,” he said. He spent two tours on the Essex during the police action, as the president called it. Shortly after returning to San Diego he was separated from the navy and headed home to Spokane. He married a valley girl named Sherrill Cailteux, and together started a family. They had a son Dan and a daughter born on Christmas day, they named her Star. Wife Sherrill and son Dan have passed away. “She was a genius to me, “ Jim said.
The Gardner family were early members of Valley Fourth Church and every Sunday morning Jim can be found worshipping with friends and family.