By David Sedeño and Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
The Diocese of Dallas lost one of its longtime priests and pastors on May 3, with the death of Msgr. Glenn “Duffy” Gardner Jr., pastor of St. Martin of Tours in Forney. He was 72 and had celebrated his 46th year of ordination to the priesthood a day earlier.
Msgr. Gardner was born in Chicago, but his family moved to Dallas when he was very young. He grew up in the St. James Catholic Parish, going to church and school there with his brother and two sisters, later attending Jesuit College Preparatory School and then Holy Trinity Seminary before being ordained on May 2, 1970.
He served as a priest, pastor and administrator during his many years of service. He was a Canon lawyer who liked conversation and was known simply as “Duffy” or “Father Duffy.” He was described as one who never knew a stranger. He was known to use meals to bring others closer to Christ, and as a priest who maximized his privilege of preaching the Gospel to deliver both the Good Word and a one-liner at the end.
Hundreds paid respect to him and his family at Ted Dickey Funeral Home in North Dallas on May 7 and the morning of May 8. Hundreds more gathered at his parish on the evening of Mother’s Day to pray the rosary, and to laugh and remember the man who had compassion for the poor and the downtrodden; who brought comfort to families suffering through death or divorce, and who administered the sacraments to countless others during his tenure.
At his funeral Mass at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Plano, one of several parishes where he once served as pastor, Msgr. Gardner was remembered for all his qualities.
“He was a good priest, a good pastor and a good friend,” Bishop Kevin J. Farrell said at the beginning of the Mass. He said that even at the moment, “Duffy” was sitting in Heaven and that “I can hear him now saying something funny about something.”
He said numerous people had told him stories in recent days about the longtime and humble priest. “At this moment, he is probably up there in the presence of God saying, ‘Get on with it!”
During his homily, Msgr. John Bell, pastor of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church in Allen and who worked with Msgr. Gardner in the Office of the Tribunal in the Diocese of Dallas, recalled his introduction to then-seminarian Glenn Gardner in 1967 when they both were at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving. At the time, the young Bell was a few years behind Glenn Gardner and quickly found out how the wise-cracking seminarian Gardner could bring a roomful of people to laughter.
As their paths crisscrossed over the years, he saw Christ working through his friend, especially when he gathered with others during simple meals in homes or at more elegant events where thousands had gathered. He said that his friend was the epitome of a great pastor, one who had a magnanimous soul, who welcomed anybody and everybody and always stayed with his flock.
“Christ fully informed Duffy in terms of his life and it was in this meal setting that he was able to bond and change and maybe heal people in their daily lives,” Msgr. Bell said. “The irony was that he also was beset with adversities, not just one or two, but his life had all sorts of ups and downs, many bumps in the road, but he turned his attention to others, not to himself.”
After the Mass, the procession of priests who gathered to pay their last respects gathered outside the church and, in a moving gesture, sang “Salve Regina.”
Later, others gathered for a reception following the funeral Mass as family and other friends went to Calvary Hill Cemetery for the interment.
“Duffy was always delightful as a child in the same way as you saw him now,” recalled Pat Vinton, who went to St. James Catholic School with his sisters, Judith and Marileone. “My brother Paul kept up with him for years. The day before Duffy died, Paul and a friend went to Forney and had lunch with Duffy. He was always humorous, kind and never used his humor against anybody.”
Others remembered his moments on the pulpit in church.
“It would always make me giggle when at the end of Mass, Father Duffy would brag about how smart his people were to the visitors of the church that day,” recalled Deirdre Stanley Sullivan of St. Martin of Tours via a Facebook post. “He would ask, ‘Do you know who Jeremiah was?’
“Then he would open his arms and ask us all, and everyone would respond together, ‘Jeremiah was a bullfrog.’ He was such a special man,” she said. “He will be deeply missed by everyone that knew him.”
And as relatives and friends began taking handfuls of dirt and placing them on top of the casket, a Scottish bagpipe player began playing “Amazing Grace” from his perch next to the statue depicting the crucifixion at the Priests Circle. At the same time, another jet made its approach overhead toward its descent to Love Field.
And several wondered whether “Duffy” had planned it himself: his own special flyover.