MOUNT VERNON — With a bit of subterfuge, the Exchange Club of Mount Vernon and Knox County and Kiwanis of Mount Vernon managed to surprise Larry Gardner with a tribute Friday in recognition of his many years of service to both organizations.
Gardner thought he was attending the regular Exchange Club meeting, then some of his fellow Kiwanis showed up as special guests.
Ginny Williams, Exchange Club president, expressed appreciation to Gardner for all his support and prayers over the years. Quoting Proverbs 3: 5-6, she said Gardner’s quiet, unselfish manner, stories or jokes and advice have all been a blessing to members of the community as well as to both of the service organizations.
Jerry Scott, a member of both clubs, said Gardner has been a valuable mentor to anyone who knew him, and has “lived up to the motto of both clubs.” Scott said Gardner has been a downtown merchant for more than 50 years, and never said a discouraging word about his competitors. He talked about Gardner’s participation in meetings and other club activities, and praised Gardner for being very involved in the community, “always in service to the youth.”
Gardner said Friday’s luncheon was a pleasure. He said he appreciated everyone who attended the meeting, and the tributes from his fellow club members meant a lot to him. Gardner downplayed the positive impact he has made, not taking personal credit for his contributions to the community.
“God’s got me here for some reason,” he said.
Gardener has been a Kiwanian since Oct. 1, 1965. He is believed to be the second oldest member. Robert Denzer joined the club July 1, 1958. Gardener served as president of Kiwanis from 1979 -80 and served as Lt. Gov. of Division 11 North from 1983-84, 1990-91, 1995-96, 1998-99 and 2003-04.
In addition to being a Life Member of Kiwanis, he also received the James A. Beam Award in 1998-99, Kiwanis also has honored Gardener with the George F. Hixon Award and Past International Presidents Award for his efforts in service to the community and his club.