MySource:Jlanoux/Interview with Wayne S Woody, by Judith Lanoux Smith

MySource Interview with Wayne S Woody, by Judith Lanoux Smith
Year range -
Surname Gardner
Interview with Wayne S Woody, by Judith Lanoux Smith.

11 Apr 2011: Interview subject: William Jennings Gardner

My mother's [Mary Frances Shaffer] family (the Shaffers) had a long association with University of the South at Sewannee, Tennessee. Her parents spent the summers there, renting a house for the season. William Gardner was the football coach at the school. It was here that my mother, Mary Francis Shaffer, met him when she was about 16 years old. He was 15 years older than her. [This would have been roughly about 1912.] She became attracted to him. Her mother opposed any relationship because of his Indian blood. He began writing to Mary Frances, but her mother intercepted the letters — going so far as to pick the mail up at the Post Office. Mary Frances never knew of these letters. Mr. Gardner eventually quit writing, believing that his advances had been spurned.

Mr. Gardner married a socialite from Michigan and had a few children. He kept in touch and visited Mary Frances several times and we have pictures with him and his children from one of these visits. Wayne believes that Mary Frances considered him the "love of her life."

Years later, out of the blue, Mr. Gardner called Mary Frances at her home in New Orleans. [This would be about 1946 when Wayne was about 14 years old.] He was happy to find that she was "available." They were married two weeks later at the Shaffer family home, Ardoyne, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Wayne attended the wedding.

There was trouble in paradise and things soon fell apart. Mr. Gardner had a drinking problem. He had a pension check from his World War I service since he had been gassed. When the check arrived, Mr. Gardner would disappear for several days, returning after the money was gone. On the first occasion, Mary Francis took Wayne and went searching for William, checking all of the drinking dens in the French Quarter of New Orleans. They did find him in a small cell in one of these places. His monthly disappearances continued. Wayne also remembers that he would have a bottle hidden next to his chair in the living room and would drink throughout the evening and that once, entering Mr. Gardner's room, he saw several bottles, vermouth, whiskey, etc. — all empty.

The couple separated less than a year after the wedding. Mr. Gardner didn't return home after one of his disappearances. Mary Frances got a legal separation, but never divorced him. Wayne believes that Mr. Gardner couldn't deal with the shame associated with his drinking and just left, rather than face her. He is remembered as a very nice, personable, gentle man.