Jack Gardner’s Sundial
And A Friendship That Still Blooms in the Shakespeare Park Garden
By Orna Rawls
Orna Rawls is a member of the garden committee, in charge of the birdbath.
In 1959 actors John Housman and Will Geer attended a Stratford High School theatre performance, looking for local talent. Impressed with SHS senior Jack Gardner, they invited him to audition in New York City. Jack was then cast in Antony and Cleopatra, starring Katherine Hepburn, at our own American Shakespeare Theatre.
Jack went on to star with many other celebrities in other productions around the globe, and continued enjoying his friendship with Will Geer. As many of our readers know, actor and botanist Will Geer created the garden that now carries his name, located at the entrance to Shakespeare Park on Elm Street. Maintained by Stratfords of the World Reunion Committee and volunteers, the garden attracts local residents looking for beauty, inspiration and peace.
Among the visitors were a local couple, Robert Litzie, a very close cousin of Jack Gardner, and his wife Joanne. Joanne, seeing a pedestal among the flowers, thought that erecting a sundial in Will Geer’s Garden would be a great memorial to Jack, who died this May in Florida.
Jack Gardner with Bernadette Peters in Dames At Sea
Joanne presented the idea to Jack’s husband, James Turner, and to the garden committee. All loved the idea. The committee cleaned up the pedestal and added the marble slab to the top to ready it for the sundial. Joanne found online a sundial made in England, and all was ready to go.
Last Sunday, September 17th, the two theatre friends’ memories were united in a touching dedication ceremony at the garden.