SONS OF UTAH PIONEERS
Hurricane Valley Chapter
November 20, 2013
Genevieve Isom Gardner was born to Thomas and Annie Hinton Isom in Hurricane Utah on October 7, 1918. She was the youngest of a family of five boys and five girls. Hurricane had been settled just twelve short years at the time of her birth. The Isom and Hinton families had played a prominent role in the construction of the Hurricane Canal and in the settlement of the town. Genevieve has pioneer heritage and had what could be considered a pioneer childhood.
Her childhood home doubled as a home for a large family and also as the Isom hotel. By the time Genevieve was old enough to reach the sink by standing on a chair, she was helping wash dishes for the family and hotel guests. Her hotel related responsibilities increased as she got older. She was a big help to her mother who was not only responsible for all the work associated with keeping a hotel, but also had to cook for the hotel quests as well as cook and care for a big family.
Genevieve had a happy childhood, which included having a best friend in Leila Petty. Leila was just two weeks older than Genevieve and this two week difference in age presented a crisis when it came time to start school. The cutoff date for beginning school was 30 September. Leila could start school but Genevieve was a week too young! Genevieve was devastated. A kind-hearted principal saw the distress and allowed Genevieve to attend with her friend. During her school years, the Hurricane School was located on Main Street, on west side of the block, south of State Street. She attended all twelve years of school there and was a member of the last class to graduate prior to the opening of the new high school in 1936.
The Branch Agriculture College in Cedar City, now Southern Utah University, was Genevieve’s next school of choice. She spent a year there taking preparatory courses for the nursing program at the LDS School of Nursing in Salt Lake City. Her plans to attend nursing school were delayed a year because of the death of her mother in the summer of 1938. This was a difficult time for her, the rest of the family, and especially for her father. She chose to spend the next year with her father to help him through this difficult transition.
Her nursing schooling began in the fall of 1939. A year or so later, while waiting for a bus in Salt Lake, she met a young man by the name of Lehi Robert Gardner. He was from Cedar City and lived next to where she stayed while attending BAC, although they hadn’t interacted much at that time. Now it was different. They dated for two years until Genevieve completed nursing school. In that era, nursing students could not be married. Graduation came in 1942, the beginning of World War II. Both the Army and Navy were heavily recruiting nurses and she considered joining, but commitments had been made between Genevieve and Robert and they married in December of 1942.
The first three years of their married lives was an adventure, a period that Genevieve considered to be some of the best years of her life. Robert had been accepted into the School of Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, so off they went to Boston in 1943. Genevieve took a position at the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital and Robert settled into his studies. While there they were able to take advantage of many of the attractions that the Boston area had to offer, including opera, theater, music (the Boston Pops was Genevieve’s favorite), baseball and much more.
Robert Graduated from MIT in 1945 and the couple returned to Salt Lake. They stayed for three years during which time their sons Paul and Thomas were born. The family of four then moved to Cedar City in 1948 where Raymond, Leslie Ann and Debra joined the family, and where Genevieve continues to live.
During the 1960’s, Genevieve spent much of her time raising children but found time to contribute to the community. In 1962 she began a relationship with the Utah Shakespeare Festival that lasted for forty five years. It began by serving as a hostess, developed into a position on the Shakespeare Board for nine years and was followed by an appointment to the Shakespeare Board of Governors. Her service also included volunteer work with the Red Cross, filling in for various nurses at the hospital and clinic, and working for the University’s Health Service.
The seventies and eighties was a time for the Gardeners to add other interest to their lives which included golfing and traveling.
Robert died in 1992, which was the saddest day of her life. In 2010 her son Tom died, but Genevieve goes on. Her daughter, Debbie, states that the Energizer Bunny got his inspiration from her Mother. Quoting Debbie, “actually she hasn’t just gone on – she has flourished!”
Many organizations and individuals have benefited from her generous financial contributions and time. These include SUU scholarships, enhancements to the Ann J Gardner Park in Cedar City, the Utah Symphony, the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Music Arts, the Orchestra of SUU, and many more organizations.
Genevieve continues to live by herself in the same home she has occupied for sixty four years. She turned 95 this past October 7!
Genevieve Isom Gardner, the Hurricane Valley Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers names you as true Modern Day Pioneer.