Carolyn Gardner


Carolyn Jean “Rusty” Gardner, age 89, of Ottumwa, died July 10, 2024 at MercyOne Des Moines Medical Center.

She was born on January 13, 1935 in Oskaloosa, the daughter of James Bryan and Wanda Elizabeth Ruggles.

Growing up on a farm near Fremont, Carolyn graduated in 1952 from Fremont High School. After graduation, she attended Iowa State University and the University of Iowa. Carolyn was united in marriage to Homer Lyle Gardner on August 1, 1954 at the Fremont United Methodist Church. Together, they shared 55 wonderful and loving years before Homer’s passing on May 28, 2009.

While helping her husband farm, Carolyn also worked various jobs including at the Wapello County Courthouse and for Merrill Security at Cargill in Eddyville.

Carolyn had been a member of Wesley United Methodist Church and a current member of Grace Ottumwa. She was a 67-year member and past President of P.E.O. Chapter DG, and a member of Eddyville Chapter #99 Order of Eastern Star. She was an avid sports fan to the Iowa Hawkeyes and was a super fan of all her children and grandchildren’s sporting events and activities.

Carolyn enjoyed sewing, puzzles, and reading books. She loved being on the farm and loved animals, especially her cat, Charly. Most importantly, she loved spending time with her family and friends.

Surviving are her beloved five children, Kathleen Gonzales and husband Rick of Los Alamos, NM, Julie Grimley and husband Dr. Jeff of Naperville, IL, Lynette Carlson and husband Eric of Ottumwa, Barbara Worrall and husband Scott of Las Vegas, NV, and Gary Gardner and wife Sharla of Albia; 14 grandchildren, Veronica (Wouter Gevers) Gonzales, Katrina (Dave Kominek) Gonzales, Jennifer Gonzales, Joel Grimley, Christopher (Megan) Grimley, Benjamin Grimley, Caroline Carlson, Claire Carlson, Ellen Carlson, Blake Worrall, Lane (Ashley) Worrall, Julia Worrall, Garett (Rachel) Gardner and Gaige Gardner; along with 7 great-grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents; a grandson, Ricky Gonzales; and her sister, Alleen Hedge.

Visitation will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, July 14th at Reece Funeral Home with the family present to greet friends from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Monday, July 15th at Reece Funeral Home with Pastor Chris Childs officiating. Private burial will be in Memorial Lawn Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Grace Ottumwa, Heartland Humane Society or Iowa Heart Foundation.

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