Jasper County native and school board member Cathy Gardner, hailed as an advocate of early childhood education, died Monday.
Gardner, 52, died at her home in Ridgeland after a long illness.
Her passing was noted by school board Chairwoman Berty Riley in a statement Monday during a meeting of the Jasper County School Board of Trustees.
Gardner had served District 5 on the board since November 2010, representing parts of Ridgeland. In that time, she also represented Jasper County on the board for the Beaufort-Jasper Academy of Career Excellence, the joint vocational school with Beaufort County.
Gardner graduated from Ridgeland High School in 1980. She once served as the director of the S.C. First Steps program in Jasper County, which works to prepare children for school by providing health screenings and educational resources.
Her husband, James Gardner, died in September at age 60. He was a former Jasper County school board member, as well, and the school district's athletic director until his death.
They leave behind one daughter, according to the board's statement.
"(Cathy) will be greatly missed by this board, the community and her family," Riley said.
Fellow board member Tedd Moyd said he greatly enjoyed working with Cathy Gardner and respected her decisions and passion for education.
"I'm truly going to miss her being a part of the board," he said. "She was an advocate for children, for the schools and for her population in the county and the surrounding areas."
Gardner had not filed to run for her seat, which is up for election in November, according to the Jasper County Elections and Voter Registration Office. Three residents -- Daisy Mitchell, Leon Smith and Anne Walker -- have filed to run, director Jeanine Bostick said Tuesday.
Gardner's public visitation was Tuesday at Young Funeral Home. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Mount Carmel Baptist Center in Ridgeland, with burial to follow in the Antioch Cemetery in Pineland.
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- Jasper Co. athletics director James Gardner dies, Sept. 26, 2013