P.Q. Gardner, a Monticello businessman, community leader, and aerial gunner who had 35 missions over Nazi Germany during World War II, died Tuesday.
He was a member of the 386th Bomb Group that had the most enviable record of all B-26 groups in terms of successful missions, tonnage of bombs dispatched and enemy aircraft destroyed. Their missions were of the utmost importance in the campaign in Europe.
Gardner, who flew 25 missions over Germany in the B-26s, was known as a waist-gunner because he had to hang out a window and shoot.
After those 25 missions, his group was split up and he was assigned to an A-26. Gardner liked these bombers better because they had a compartment for the gunner with Plexiglas windows so he could see out of the aircraft, but stay out of the wind and cold. It was extremely cold and windy at those altitudes.
The B-26s and A-26s were considered medium bombers that flew at about 10,000 to 12,000 feet so they made fairly good targets for enemy ground-to-air projectiles. The B-26 required at least six men to operate. The A-26 required 2-3 airmen and was a lot more comfortable and safe. Their primary targets were railroad yards, bridges, overpasses, highways and other infrastructure.
After WWII, Gardner remained in the Army Reserves and then the National Guard for a few years. Because of his service record he was able to attend Arkansas A&M College on the GI Bill and in three and a half years earned a degree in education. He went on to eventually become superintendent of the Drew Central School District.
Gardner also earned a master’s degree from the University of Mississippi prior to entering business.
The father of three children, Gardner owned several businesses and became one of Monticello’s most respected and patriotic citizens. He was an active supporter of the American Legion and other veterans groups. He could also be called upon to support many other civic endeavors.
Gardner was named the 2011 Drew County Man of the Year by the Monticello/Drew County Chamber of Commerce after serving more than half a century in the real estate business.
He was active in numerous civic and professional organizations, including the Arkansas Real Estate Commission, the Southeast Arkansas Concert Association, the Drew County Election Commission, and the Drew Memorial Hospital board of directors. He also served on the Monticello City Council and the Drew County Quorum Court.
Gardner operated cable television franchises in Monticello and Warren and built and sold cable systems in Sheridan, White Hall, Redfield, Altheimer and south Pine Bluff. He also owned and operated four radio stations and owned a real estate agency, Gardner Realty.
The funeral service for Mr. Gardner will be held on September 19 at 11 a.m. at Stephenson-Dearman Funeral Home in Monticello.Burial with military honors will be at Oakland Cemetery in Monticello.
Visitation is September 18 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the funeral home.