Born in Washington, D.C., in 1925, Dr. Albert “Bert” Y. Garner, and Mrs. Geraldine “Gerry” Garner were happily married for 71 years before their homegoings. Gerry passed away on January 21, 2021, at 95 years old, and Bert on March 8, 2021, at 95 years old.
Bert was born on May 8, 1925, to Addie and Wilbert Garner. After earning his PhD, Dr. Garner was hired as a research chemist by Monsanto Chemical Company. Gerry was born on April 3, 1925, to Lacey Ruth Williams and Edward Hall; she was raised in Hallsville, North Caroline, and Washington, D.C. Gerry received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Miner Teacher’s College, and began her teaching career as a junior high English teacher.
The couple met their senior year of high school, and it has been said that “Throughout their marriage, when you saw one, you saw the other. A young neighbor boy called them Gerryalbert whenever he saw them.”
The couple first came to Springfield, MA, in 1956. During this time Dr. Garner became a Vice President and Membership Chair of the local NAACP chapter and served on the Board of the Urban League. He also taught Sunday School at St. John’s Congregational Church. Mrs. Garner was one of two women who started a church-time nursery at St. John’s.
During the years they spent in the Midwest, they were very active in civic and educational organizations. Upon their return to Springfield in 1984, they once again immersed themselves in serving the community. They became Literacy Volunteer Network tutors and inaugurated the Heacock Center Adult Literacy classes at St. John’s in 1989. They were co-directors and tutors in the program, which was recognized with a Governor’s Community Builders Award.
Mrs. Garner chaired the church’s Christian Education Committee, was on the board of the Springfield Council of Churches, and was very active with the Pioneer Valley Girl Scout Council. Her volunteer work with Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority led to The Garners’ involvement with the Partnership in Math and Science (PIMS) program, a national initiative of the sorority. In 2020, with 75 years of membership and service, Gerry became a Diamond Soror.
The Garners formed a local PIMS chapter with the goal of stressing the importance of math and science for African American students. From 1997 to 2001, The Garners directed the PIMS program for 100 local students. Mrs. Garner also joined the local coalition of the Massachusetts Department of Education’s Parent Involvement Program (PIP) and went on to link the PIMS and PIP programs in Springfield. The PIMS/PIP coalition of parents and schools introduced the first National African American Parent Involvement Day as an annual event held during Black History Month. PIMS/PIP sponsored financial workshops for parents, science workshops for kids, essay contests, and other activities.
In 2011, the Garners were awarded the Ubora Award for Excellence by the African Hall Subcommittee of the Springfield Museums, for their dedication to the betterment of Greater Springfield. The Garners bio from that time can be found by visiting: SpringfieldMuseums.org/ubora