Cover photo for James Ronald Gardella's Obituary
James Ronald Gardella Profile Photo
1932 James 2022

James Ronald Gardella

July 18, 1932 — January 18, 2022

James Ronald Gardella, age 89, died peacefully on January 18th, 2022 while surrounded by his family. 

Ron was born to James and Madeleine Gardella on July 18th, 1932 in Keansburg, New Jersey. He was raised on the Jersey shore and was active in many school and community events. Upon graduation from high school, he attended Monmouth College in New Jersey where he received an Associate degree in liberal studies. He was the first person in his family to attend college.

He soon joined the Navy and proudly served as a Hospital Corpsman aboard several ships, but most notably aboard the USS Roanoke (CL 145). He participated in Roanoke’s highly successful Mediterranean Sea deployment that was critical to NATO’s mission in the region. 

After leaving naval service, he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in Education from Rutgers University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Education from Southern Illinois University. He started his teaching career as a high school biology teacher, then was the Chief Naturalist for Sandy Hook State Park in New Jersey (now part of Gateway National Recreational Area). He was given one of the first grants of its kind by the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare to develop and institute an environmental program for the park and as supplemental education for local schools. He eventually settled in Kentucky and was a professor for twenty-four years at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) as a pioneer in Environmental Education. He served as the Director, Curriculum & Instruction and retired as the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for NKU’s College of Education and Human Services.

He was married to Linda Beltz from Illinois. He and Linda were very active at Highlands United Methodist Church in Fort Thomas, KY. They felt called to be missionaries and ultimately served in that role in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Uganda. He taught college courses in Zaire to allow students to receive their master’s degrees and to teach. He was even an emergency dentist for the locals.

Ron and Linda eventually moved from Kentucky to Fleming Island, Florida to escape the cold and be near family.  While a resident of Clay County, he was a very active member of Orange Park United Methodist Church and served on many committees and boards and enjoyed singing in the choir. He volunteered many years as a chaplain with Haven Hospice, a teacher for Stephen’s Ministers, and was a grief counselor to countless individuals. He enjoyed visiting Disney World with family and friends and cruises to anywhere.

He is preceded in death by his mother and father, and survived by his loving wife Linda, his brother Russell Roger, his five sons and their beautiful wives, James Ronald Jr (Karen), Russell Craig (Nancy), John Richard (Jessica), Patrick Stephen (Carol), David Matthew (Mona), as well as 15 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren, and one great, great grandchild (due in July 2022). 

A memorial service will be held at Orange Park United Methodist Church at 3:00 pm on Monday, January 24th, 2022. Pastor Charles Lever and the Reverend Patrick Gardella will be officiating.

In lieu of flowers, donations to Orange Park United Methodist Church or your local hospice are appreciated.


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Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Monday, January 24, 2022

Starts at 3:00 pm (Eastern time)

Orange Park United Methodist Church

2051 Park Avenue, Orange Park, FL 32073

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