All of us at Old Wheatleyans RFC were both shocked and saddened to hear of the sudden death of Chris Gardiner at the age of 42.
A kind and generous friend, Chris, known to many simply as “Gards” (amongst many other nicknames) was a naturally gifted all-round sportsman, playing high level representative rugby and cricket at many age group levels and being a talented footballer in his youth.
As well as playing for the Wheats at senior level for many years, principally as a fiercely competitive fly half or scrum half, Chris also played with distinction for Bablake School and a hugely successful Coventry Colts side in the mid 1990’s.
On the cricketing side there will no doubt be many tributes via Berkswell CC for whom he played for many years.
To follow on from the poignant tribute to 'Gards' delivered by OWRFC President, Adam Mason at the recent club end of season dinner, it should be noted that there was so much more to him than just sport and as a classic Old Wheat, he hated training and frequently gave performances in the bar as memorable as those on he produced on the pitch.
Chris would often have the changing room gasping for air, helpless with tears of laughter, through an absurd observation or the story of one his numerous misadventures, usually related by someone else that was there at the time, not quite believing what they were witnessing.
Much of this started at an early age, many of us who were at school have fond memories of the time he was forced to read a Hardy Boys book at the front of the coach heading to an away fixture having mooned several thousand people in a traffic jam
on the M6. “I was hot” didn’t cut it with the Master in charge upon enquiring as to why he’d removed his trousers on an air conditioned coach during a West Midlands Winter...
It was something of a privilege to find his smiling face next to you at the bar as you discovered his false teeth had been deposited into your pint, the gap in the grin appearing as you got down to the dregs.
The club lexicon and the vocabulary of his friends have been enriched over the years with such gems as “the snider” for the forearm protector that he wore. Nicknames were instantly dished out to new arrivals; “Tickler” for a student with particularly long arms and not forgetting a fascination in catching certain people on the way out of the showers.
There are probably enough stories to fill a book but these will be better over a beer with friends than to try and do them justice here.
Gards, you are an ‘Old Wheats Legend’.
You were loved by many of us and will be sorely missed here and further afield as the many, many other tributes that have appeared online have shown.
Rest in Peace Gards. Much love to you and your lovely family from all of us at OWRFC.
Gards' funeral will take place on 30th April at 12.30 at the South Tyneside Crematorium with a celebration of life held afterwards at The Shack, Boldon. All are welcome, no flowers. Donations to MIND if you would like to contribute to a charity. Please do not wear black, club colours welcome.
Obituary produced by Paul Coleman.