Dorothy Louise Hill Gardner, 90, an activist and educator whose long life of service and inspiration touched many people, died Monday, June 14, of congestive heart failure at her home in Audubon, Montgomery County.
The matriarch of her large extended family, Mrs. Gardner was a mentor and supporter to many strivers, young and old alike.
“She knew education was a key to upliftment and freedom, so she pushed it with her children as well as others as much as she could influence,” her son Charles Gardner said.
It was all part of her unyielding commitment to dignity and justice for her fellow African Americans, and for people in general.
“Up until the very end, she was very passionate about the struggle that she committed her life to,” her nephew Jeffrey Hill said. “She lived a full life. She walked it like she talked it.”
Mrs. Gardner was born July 3, 1930, in Philadelphia, the first child of Joseph R. Hill Sr. and Anna Louise Fulchon Hill.
With the exception of one year at Central State University, a historically black college in Wilberforce, Ohio, her entire education was in Philadelphia. She graduated from West Philadelphia High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Temple University, where she pledged the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She received her master’s in social work from the University of Pennsylvania.
All her life, Mrs. Gardner sought to be the change she wanted to see in the world. She attended the 1968 March on Washington with her mother, picketed with the Congress of Racial Equality, and was an active member of the Black Women’s Political Alliance.
She used her own education to be of service to others. She taught elementary school for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and then worked as a public welfare caseworker for the city and Pennsylvania. She taught communication skills to adults and helped develop various programs at the Opportunities Industrialization Center.
Later, she taught high school English for the Philadelphia School District and served as senior center director at the Stephen Smith Geriatric Center. She then returned to social work at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Lankenau Hospital.
Her personal life was full and rich, too.
She married James Gardner on June 18, 1955, and had four children. About two years ago, Mrs. Gardner drew her multiple generations of relatives together to share their family history going all the way back to the times of enslavement.
Mrs. Gardner was also an intrepid world traveler. Many of her sojourns were made in the company of friends or travel groups. But she had no qualms about striking out on her own if there was something she alone wanted to see. She visited five continents and 40 states, and she was proud to note she had seen the highest and lowest places on earth, Mount Everest and the Dead Sea.
Mrs. Gardner was a member of Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, where she served as a trustee for many years.
In addition to her son Charles, she is survived by another son, Gregory Paul Gardner, a daughter, Joanne Marie Gardner; a brother, Joseph R. Hill; 11 grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; and other relatives. Her husband; a son, Kurt; and a grandson, Gregory Wright, died before her.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, July 2, at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, 2251 N. 54th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19131. All are welcome. The event will also be streamed on the church’s Facebook page.
A private event will be Saturday, July 3, for family and close friends at Levering Mill Tribute House.
Donations in Mrs. Gardner’s memory may be made to the Pinn Memorial Baptist Church’s scholarship fund at the church’s address, 2251 N. 54th St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19131.