Charles “Charlie” Gardner, 85, passed away on May 25, 2023, in Bayonet Point, Florida. He is survived by his loving children Pam, Jim, Chris and Andrew, his grandchildren Gavin, Reese, Rebecca, Thomas & Kevin, daughter-in-law Toby, nephew Michael and niece Susan. Charlie’s cherished wife Janet predeceased him by 3 ½ years.
After serving his country in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s, Charlie worked for more than 30 years in advertising as an agent for artists, based in New York. As an agent, he supported his growing family and met some lifelong friends but never truly flourished professionally with a vocation that he loved. That came later, after he relocated with Janet to Florida in the late 1990s.
Charlie found his calling with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as a field biologist. As an avid outdoorsman, he took to the role like a fish to water (pun intended) and interviewed thousands of anglers in a nearly 30-year career for the state’s conservation efforts. He trained coworkers, visited schools and libraries to share his insights with children, and won many accolades from the commission for his efforts. He was known throughout the Tampa Bay area for his innate ability to disarm and charm anglers from all over the world, but also for his penchant for wearing camouflage, his infectious laugh and his array of handmade necklaces. Anyone who met Charlie remembered Charlie.
Charlie’s interest in conservation was so acute that he left this note in his personal effects, found upon his passing….
If I’m going to have an epitaph, let it be this:
“We are merely stewards of a fragile entity that relies on our generosity to survive. If we want these fish to be around for our grandchildren, we had better start thinking about the way we handle them and become more conservation-minded. It may sound cliché, but I recommend every angler keep only what they eat that day and return the rest.”
Interview with Charlie Gardner, Florida Outdoor Adventures Magazine, January 2006
Charlie wasn’t just defined by his role at FWC. He was an amazing husband, father & grandfather. Generous, loving, artistic, present, compassionate, opinionated, impatient and occasionally obstinate. He will be missed deeply but remembered lovingly by the family, friends and colleagues who had the pleasure of experiencing him.
A tribute to Charles Gardner will be held soon, date/time/location to be determined shortly. Those attending will be highly encouraged to wear an article of camouflage clothing.