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Tribute to Richard Lewis Gartner, Third Generation Dodge Dealer

Co-written by Jeanne Gartner and Barry Gartner

Rick Gartner, 3rd Generation President/Dealer Principal of Reed Brothers Dodge.

This is a very special post in honor of Richard Lewis “Rick” Gartner who passed away on Thursday, October 6, 2022 at the age of 68. Rick fought a short, courageous battle against a relentless and cruel enemy. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer on the day of his birthday on January 25, 2022. Nine months later it took him despite his strong will to live and willingness to do anything to get a chance to beat it.

I am Rick’s older sister, Jeanne Gartner, and author of this blog, and Barry is Rick’s younger brother. To celebrate Rick’s life, Barry and I decided we would co-write a tribute to honor his memory. At first, I hesitated to write such a personal and lengthy post here, but then I realized Rick would have gotten a big kick out of having his older sister and younger brother write about him. Tragically, sometimes we do not get to keep people we love for as long as we want, but though Rick’s life was shorter than we wanted, he lived a full life and accomplished a lot with the time he had. Rick was a large part of Reed Brothers Dodge for more than three decades of his life, so it only made sense to honor him here.

Business path.

In life, it is a rare thing to know where your path is going to lead. For Rick, even as a young man, it was very clear that his path would lead to following in the footsteps of his father, Lee Gartner, and his grandfather, Lewis Reed. Rick started working at Reed Brothers Dodge part-time when he was 15 years old. To learn the business, he started at the bottom of the company in Used Car Get-Ready and the Parts Department, and worked his way up. After graduating from Gaithersburg High School in 1972, he studied dealership management at the prestigious Northwood Institute of Automotive Marketing in Midland, Michigan. He graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Automotive Marketing & Dealership Management in 1976. After graduation, he worked as Sales Associate from 1976-1982, and served as Sales Manager from 1983-1992. When his father retired and became Chairman of the Board in 1993, Rick was designated as President/Dealer Principal, making Reed Brothers Dodge a third-generation dealer.

Interests.

Rick’s interests were broad and varied. He enjoyed annual trips such as camping and salmon fishing up north with friends and fraternity brothers, as well as ATV trips to Hatfield-McCoy trails in the Appalachians, and white water rafting at Ohiopyle and Youghiogheny Rivers. Anyone that knew Rick well knew of his love of the water. He enjoyed boating, fishing, crabbing, traveling, and being near the water. As a keen shooter, he also developed an extensive collection of firearms. For many years, he was an avid coin collector. Fascinated with snakes of all kinds, he kept many as “pets” over the decades, including Ringed-neck, Hognose, Black Rat, Eastern Racer, and numerous species of Boa Constrictors.

Younger years. 

Rick played Little League Softball with the Colts and Little League Baseball with the Yankees. He loved ice skating and ice hockey in the winter at Summit Hall Turf Farm in his hometown of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Rick was a member of the Cub Scouts and attained Webelos rank at age 8-10. In elementary school, Rick was appointed Lieutenant of the AAA Safety Patrol, which may have very well been his first leadership role. At the age of 11, he joined Boy Scout Troop 937 at Grace Methodist Church and reached the level of Star Scout. Some of the merit badges he earned were in backpacking, cooking, first aid, swimming, lifesaving, and signaling. Rick played trombone throughout junior and senior high school and was a member of the Gaithersburg High School marching band.

Shared childhood memories.

All of us must have done crazy things along with our siblings in childhood. Below, Barry shares a unique insight into Rick’s childhood that only a brother can provide.

We both used to love climbing the Maple tree in the front yard. We also both (hate to say it) used slingshots to kill any bird we could get a bead on in the yard. Mom used to tell us, “Don’t shoot anything unless it’s a Starling”, but when she started finding dead Blue jays, Robins, etc. around the yard, the slingshots were taken away for good (should have picked ’em up, I guess). 

Battles around the cherry tree: pocket as many off the ground as you can (the rottener they were, the better), then game on. 

When they were building the apartments behind our house, we used to make mud balls and let them dry, then we’d climb up a tree and throw them at the construction workers.

We used to play Mumblypeg all the time (it’s an old Indian knife game). You stand facing each other, with legs apart, and whoever throws the knife closest to the foot (without hitting it), wins. One time (outside in the front yard), we were playing with homemade “spears”. For the first time in all of playing, I put mine right through his tennis shoe and into his foot. After pausing in shock about what had just happened, he pulled the spear out and chased me several times around the house before I finally ran inside and back to our bedroom, where he promptly pummeled me with a football helmet. 

Then there’s the time we set the house on fire……Lighting small patches of dead grass where the tomatoes were grown, then putting out the fire with a firecracker. One time it didn’t go out, and while I ran to get a bucket of water on the side of the house, Rick tried to put it out with a dead branch, but it fanned the fire up under a bush in the corner of the house. Mom and Dad weren’t home, so Della (our housekeeper at the time) called the fire department. It burned the bush and siding in that corner. When mom got home, she was so thoroughly beside herself, that she simply said, “wait ’till your father gets home”.

Boy Scout mischief. 

The Summer Boy Scout Camp experience would not be complete without a little bit of mischief. Pranks and practical jokes are intertwined with the spirit of Summer Camp and, I believe, in the spirit of childhood in general. And I think I now realize why that is. 

At scout summer camp (2 weeks, usually at Goshen or Gambrill), we initiated the “newbies”. Outside of each tent was a bucket of dirt, and a bucket of water. Newbies would get an early morning wake-up, by us, yelling “FIRE” and tossing in the bucket load of dirt, followed by the bucket of water.  

One year, we were set up on what was called “Hurricane Hill”. The tents were set up on wood platforms in case there were high waters from rain. A storm did come in one night, and flooded a creek that was very close to our campsite. We looked at this as another opportunity to “initiate”, so we slid the platform and tent (while occupied) over to the creek and sent it floating away. 

Another year, a very large group of scouts (several hundred as I recall) had to leave early, and left us (and others) with barrels full of corn. I remember both of us (along with everyone else in our troop) complaining to our scoutmaster as to why we had to use this for literally every meal: corn in the morning pancakes, corn in the mashed potatoes, corn in the soup, and corn on the cob. Needless to say, this led to a backup line at the latrine on many occasions.  

Grateful for the memories.

There were many wonderful aspects to Rick’s life, and many ways that he touched our lives. He will be remembered as a loving brother and as a friendly, kind-hearted person who made his mark in the world not with grand gestures or a fancy title, but by the basic goodness of his heart and generosity of his character. Although we feel Rick was taken far too soon from this world, we know that he lived a wonderful and fulfilling life. We will miss him every day and feel so lucky to have shared a lifetime of precious memories with him. Rick, this is for you. May your soul rest in perfect peace.

We love you… Jeanne and Barry

Here is the link to his Obituary for friends and family who follow this blog: https://www.fellerandclark.com/obituary/Richard-Gartner?fbclid=IwAR1JSmYKLOgi_iakH-SGqlSUF9TwD3Z7AIywly1gL5BJ2-qWJqoX863Fz3c#obituary

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