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Nell Elizabeth Gardner-Roderick, 79, mixed faith with melody

Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | 11:24 p.m. CDT; updated 11:44 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, September 4, 2012

COLUMBIA — "Gospel Girls" was Nell Gardner-Roderick's faith-based musical group. It included her two granddaughters, Amber Sears and Shannon Gardner. Sometimes her grandson would join the group when they would travel around mid-Missouri, bringing their gospel melodies to nursing homes and senior centers. 

"Spreading the word of the Gospel was one of the most important things to her throughout her life," Barbara Sears, Mrs. Gardner-Roderick's daughter, said.

Visitation and funeral

Visitation is 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Funeral Home. Services will be at 2 p.m. Friday at Evangelical Free Church. Burial will follow at Columbia Cemetery.



Mrs. Gardner-Roderick's would play the piano and her granddaughters would sing along. Her grandson, Austin Sears, would dance.

This music project combined the three things that she held most dear in her life — music, family and the Gospel. 

"Her favorite thing to do was to listen to gospel music with friends," Mrs. Sears said.

Nell Elizabeth Gardner-Roderick of Columbia died Monday, Sept. 3, 2012. She was 79.

Mrs. Gardner-Roderick was born Sept. 14, 1932, in Columbia to Nell M. and Ben A. Blaser. She attended Hickman High School. Mrs. Gardner-Roderick played tennis and sang in the choir, which influenced her life. After graduating from Hickman in 1950, Mrs. Gardner-Roderick attended Stephens College, but she left school in 1952 and married Jesse Gardner.

Shortly after marrying, Mrs. Gardner-Roderick and Jesse Gardner moved to Little Rock, Ark., where they had their first two children, Stephen Gardner and Melinda Gardner. After living in Arkansas for a few years, the couple moved back to Columbia and had their third child, Barbara Sears.

As the family grew, Mrs. Gardner-Roderick loved cooking big family dinners and holiday feasts. It was also around this time in her life that she became a devoted Christian and spread "the word of the Gospel," according to Barbara Sears. Mrs. Gardner-Roderick read the Bible and Christian literature every day.

Later, she tried to give all of her children piano lessons, but her son Stephen Gardner was the only one who stuck with it. He now owns The Music House, a recording studio in Columbia.

Her first daughter, Melinda Gardner, decided to open a hair salon and photography studio in Columbia called Fine Art Haircutting and Photography. 

"(Mom) influenced us to be creative and follow our dreams," Melinda Gardner said. "Being raised by her was so much fun; she was so creative."

In October 2005, Mrs. Gardner-Roderick's first husband died after 53 years of marriage. After Jesse Gardner's death, Mrs. Gardner-Roderick met Edward Roderick at a Hickman High School reunion. The two danced to gospel music together, and they married in January 2011. 

Mrs. Gardner-Roderick is survived by her husband Edward Roderick; her son, Stephen Gardner, of Columbia; two daughters, Melinda Gardner of Columbia and Barbara Sears and her husband, Michael Sears, of Owensville; two granddaughters, Amber Sears and Shannon Gardner; one grandson, Austin Sears; and one great-granddaughter Gabrielle Sears. 

Mrs. Gardner-Roderick's first husband, Jesse Gardner, and her two sisters, Jane Rosenbloom of St. Louis and Ann Collins of Fulton, died earlier.

Visitation will be Thursday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W.  Services will be held Friday at Evangelical Free Church, 600 Silvey St., where Mrs. Gardner-Roderick attended church services for decades. Burial will take place after the funeral service at the Columbia Cemetery at 30 E. Broadway.

Supervising editor is Jacob Kirn.


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