What’s Gardner’s favorite book?
“My favorite is whatever I’m reading now, which is God and the Big Bang. It’s absolutely life-changing.
“My current favorite author is a young adult writer named Maggie Stiefvater. She’s so wonderful, I can only read a few pages at a time. Every couple of years, I reread Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. Don’t know why. And the Harry Potters of my childhood were the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis. I was so in love with those books. I remember being surprised in junior high to discover they were allegories. I just read them for the plot.”
Gardner, whose maiden name was Pollak, met her first husband, Mark Gardner, working on Berkeley’s The Daily Californian. The two moved to Medford, where Fran Gardner was a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings, and then to Portland where she worked at a suburban paper before being hired at The Oregonian. Gardner was an editor, copy editor, reporter and opinion writer at the The Oregonian for 34 years, retiring in 2008 during one of the paper’s numerous buy-outs.
She and Mark had two daughters, Lyza Danger Gardner, a programmer who lives in rural Vermont, and Maggie Gardner, who is a professor at Cornell Law School. Fran Gardner has two grandchildren.
An early adopter of the Internet, Gardner became interested in computer programming in the early 1980s, and that interest paved the way for the kind of technical prowess needed for library cataloging, which she completed on a free Internet site called librarything.com.
In 2004, Gardner married Robert Jaffe, a retired professor of both philosophy and electrical engineering, and the couple lived in southeast Portland. Health troubles (she has a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis) led Gardner to assisted living near her home that she said provided no stimulation with a “library” of about 15 books and no lectures or music.
Just before the pandemic, Gardner moved to Rose Schnitzer and took a ground floor room with a view of a giant cedar.
“When I originally saw the space,” said Gardner, “I thought nobody would ever take that place because it’s so dark because of the big old cedar. I love that cedar and it called to me and told me I was going to live there. So I do.
“This is a very interesting and diverse group of people who are intellectually curious well into their 90s,” she said of RSM’s residents. “My husband is Jewish, but I am not, and about one-quarter of the people here are not Jewish, and we all get along just fine. I like kosher food because I appreciate the humane slaughter of animals, so that was a plus for me–and I don’t miss bacon,” she said with a laugh.
“The place is well constructed with a brilliant layout. The grounds and the greenery and the nature path are marvelous.”
Gardner is a leader in the community. She chairs the Resident Council and sits on the board of Cedar Sinai Park. She writes frequently for Cedar Sinai’s “Our Stories” feature series. She is on the Rose Schnitzer Manor Food Committee and Cedar Sinai Park’s Development Committee. And then there’s the library.
“I have a rich life,” said Gardner. “I quilt a lot and do a lot of handwork including knitting and embroidery. I play the violin. I like to sit and meditate. I am busy in so many different ways than before. And of course, I read.”