Born in Crossett on July 6, 1942, Oleda Gardner lived her whole life here, except for a brief period in California as an infant when her father, Waymond Brantley, worked in the Oakland shipyards during World War II. He and Oleda's mother, Leona (Cornelison) Brantley, raised six children here: Irene Willis (Jack), Lettie Moore (Bllly), Minnie Brennon (Charles), Oleda herself, D.C., and W.L. (Julie). They all preceded her in death, except for W.L., who alone remains and even felt able to sing at all of his brother's and sisters' funerals.
Oleda married James Sanford (Jimmy) Gardner in 1966, and they had two children: Lisa Marie, who died soon after birth, and James Scott, now Rev. Scott Gardner, a Roman Catholic priest based in Kansas City, MO. Jimmy preceded her in death in 1980, and she lived for 37 years as a faithful widow, certain that she would never do as well, much less better, and that it was pointless to try.
Known for her musical talent, her cheerful disposition, and her willingness to help out in any way she could, "Miss Oleda" got to know countless people when she ran the old Fina station in North Crossett and in her other jobs in retail and at Superior Surgical in Hamburg. Her fried chicken was the toast of family and workplace pot-lucks, and her avid and voracious reading habit kept the librarians at the old Paul Sullins Library in business.
She was a dedicated Baptist and called Pine Forest Missionary Baptist Church home for longer than any other. Her church family certainly repaid her dedication during the years of her declining health with visits, little gifts, encouragement, and, most of all, prayers.
After the death of Jimmy, Oleda never spared herself for a moment in doing what was necessary to raise Scott alone, and the health problems that eventually took her life began then. She had an incredible tolerance for pain and a strong, stubborn will. Diabetes, amputations, a heart attack, a stroke, and kidney failure may have threatened her and laid her low, but it was heart failure that finally sapped her strength and spirit. God will reward the loving care Miss Oleda experienced at Crossett Rehab and Health (as one of their longest residents) and Davita Dialysis Center, and the staff of Hospice Home Care eased her final days immensely.
Oleda came face to face with Jesus Christ on April 5, 2017, at the age of 74.
In addition to her brother, W.L., and her son, Rev. Scott, Oleda leaves behind in particular her nieces and nephews: Mike Willis (LaDonna), Karla Addington, Charles Brennon (Becky), Karen Haas (Tim), Sue Brennon, Pamela Hamilton (Gary), and Deborah Moore, as well as a host of other great and great-great nieces and nephews, cousins, and in-laws.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Medders Funeral Home in North Crossett. Visitation will be held from 6:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. on Monday April 10, 2017, at the funeral home, and the funeral service will begin in the funeral-home chapel at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday April 11, 2017, with Rev. Willie Thornhill officiating. A grave-side service will follow immediately, weather permitting, at Simms Cemetery, North Crossett, with Rev. Don Justice officiating.
Aunt, Sister, loving Mother: may God grant her eternal rest.