Life Story Service
Saturday, April 23, 2022
2:00 PM EDT
The Fountains at Bronson Place
1700 Bronson Way
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
A reception will follow.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
P.O. Box 4777
New York, NY 10163-4777
Melanoma Research Alliance
730 15th Street NW, 4th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Charity of Your Choice
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
1830 S. Westnedge
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
Taylor's Florist and Gifts
215 E. Michigan Ave.
Paw Paw, MI 49079
Life Story / Obituary
Wayland Downing Gardner thought of himself as a lucky man. In many ways, he was right, but he also took advantage of opportunities. He was born May 16, 1928 in Elgin, Nebraska, the second child of Arthur C and Bernice (Downing) Gardner. He very nearly became an example of infant mortality but was lucky to have a persistent country doctor for a neighbor and to find a wise surgeon in Lincoln. Endowed with both physical and intellectual capacity, his sister Bernice recalled feeling envious of her little brother because he was good at everything.
Wayland was a boy during the Great Depression and it shaped some of his attitudes. But his stories were not of the hard times as his family moved looking for better opportunities but of wide-eyed wonder about Southern California and playing catch with his father as they fled back to family in Missouri after failing in the Golden West. The family found financial stability in Crete, Nebraska. During his teenage years, Wayland followed the news of World War II with great interest. He would track the progress of the war with pins on maps of Europe and Asia on the wall of his home in Crete. He was lucky the atomic bomb persuaded Japan to surrender in 1945 before Wayland was old enough for the draft. He graduated from Crete High School the next Spring.
Jobs as a child included paperboy, a flunky at JCPenney, and printer’s devil at his dad’s newspaper. While attending Doane College in Crete, he earned money for tuition by running a college supply store with his brother, Franklin. The store provided photographic services and processing - which advanced Wayland’s interest in photography to an enduring hobby. Wayland graduated from Doane in 1950. He continued his education at the University of Wisconsin where he earned a Masters Degree in economics in 1951.
In 1953, Wayland was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant of artillery in the Nebraska National Guard and served on active duty in Fort Sill, Oklahoma before he was sent to Korea in March 1954, where he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. He was fortunate that the cease-fire that started in 1953 held while he guarded the front line in the war against Communism.
While he was in the Army, Wayland married Suzanne Roop of Wichita, Kansas. They made their first home together in Fort Sill before Wayland shipped out to Korea and Sue returned to live with her parents. They had met at Doane College and their romance was rekindled when Wayland would stop in Wichita on the way from his post in Fort Sill to visit with his dying father in Crete.
After the Army, Wayland and Sue moved to Madison where Wayland resumed graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. He earned a Ph.D. in economics in 1958 and started a career as a university professor. After teaching at North Dakota State University and the University of Maryland, he finally settled down at Western Michigan University where he became a full professor. Working many nights and weekends and with much typing by Sue, Wayland authored a textbook on Public Finance in 1978. He co-authored a textbook on the Principles of Economics in 1984 - now using a Macintosh computer!
He was a great dad. His four children loved the breakfasts he usually cooked, but some were not so pleased with the jokes he told so early in the morning. Some of the bedtime stories he read to them led to family vacations to Silver Lake and Prince Edward Island. Wayland and Sue loved the outdoors and camping, even tent-camping to Alaska. With children their pop-up trailer replaced the tent for extensive vacations. With the help of income from Wayland’s textbooks, family vacations in the 1980’s started to include air travel and foreign destinations, but he and Sue never tired of driving vacations.
Wayland played baseball, football and basketball in high school and was proud to be a pitcher on an American Legion baseball team that competed in the Nebraska state tournament. He was a life-long sports fan - from minor league baseball games as a boy to college and professional games later in life. He enjoyed coaching his sons’ baseball teams and kept active by playing tennis and golf for decades.
After Wayland’s retirement in 1997, he and Sue enjoyed spending time with their children and their families, sometimes gathering with everyone for holiday vacations. They also traveled the world, often with friends and family - including multiple trips to Europe with Sue’s sister Trish and her husband Conan. In 2012 Wayland and Sue moved to The Fountains at Bronson Place, a retirement community in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he enjoyed writing memoirs and organizing a lifetime of photos. He treasured the many good friends he met at the Fountains and loved dining with those friends every day.
Wayland is survived by his beloved wife, Sue, their daughters: Jan Isaacs and her husband Neil of East Lansing, Michigan, and Elaine Hausmann and her husband Barry of Sudbury, Massachusetts; their sons: Ed and his wife Natalie of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Jim and his wife Joy of Kalamazoo, Michigan; and six grandchildren: Allie Gardner, Rachel Hausmann, Wayland R. Gardner, Sarah Hausmann, Grey Gardner and Ingrid Gardner.
Wayland was a lucky man to have lived so long, and to have successfully created the life he wanted. He loved his family deeply and was very proud of his children and grandchildren. His many friends and large family will miss him.
Wayland died April 17, 2022 in Kalamazoo. A Life Story Service will be held on Saturday (APR 23) 2 pm at The Fountains at Bronson Place, 1700 Bronson Way, Kalamazoo. Visit Wayland’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign his guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Melanoma Research Alliance, or to a charity of your choice. Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, 269-375-2900.