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John passed away on July 12, 2023, at the age of 89. Jay was born in Lakewood, Ohio, son of Frank Anthony Gardella and Pauline Ortman Gardella. He is a graduate of Hillard High School, Hillard, Ohio. He attended Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, for two years, subsequently earning his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science / International Relations, at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He married Shirley Alice (Booher) Gardella of Sidney, Ohio, in 1957. Jay and Shirley have two daughters, Debra Miller, of Brunswick, Ohio, and Diana Baier of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Jay Gardella served thirty years in the United States Navy, advancing from Seaman Recruit (E1) to Captain (06). It was during his early Navy years that he was “tagged” with the nickname “Jay” which remains today. Jay was a carrier-based Naval Aviator that accumulated over 4,300 flight hours and 575 carrier landings – 291 were night arrested landings. Captain Gardella was recognized as the Navy’s last straight deck carrier Landing Signal Officer, having “waved aboard” the Navy’s final straight deck landing onboard the USS Lake Champlain (CVS-39) in September 1965. Jay served four tours as a commanding officer: (1) Airborne Early Warning Squadron 116, (2) Navy Recruiting District Pittsburgh, (3) Navy Recruiting District San Diego, concluding his 30-year Naval career in 1985 while serving as (4) the Commanding Officer of the Recruit Training Command, San Diego, California.
Jay’s second career was as a team member of the United Way of San Diego County, serving 17 years as the Director of the San Diego County Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). During that period, the San Diego campaign raised over $95,800,000 for charitable organizations that were located throughout the world.
Jay and Shirley retired in 2004 to the community of Sun City Grand in Surprise, Arizona. At that time, Jay rekindled his passion for photography, soon becoming recognized for his Sun City Grand Arizona skyline and neighborhood coyote photographs.
Jay is predeceased by his parents Frank Anthony Gardella and Pauline (Ortman) Gardella, and his brother, William Howard Gardella Sr. He leaves his “Navy Wife” Shirley of over 65 years, daughters Debbie (Doug) Miller and Diana (Tom) Baier, grandchildren Jonathan (Lindsay) Miller and Kimberly (Matt) Klinger, great-granddaughters Emerson and Olive Klinger, great-grandsons Maddox and Lucas Miller, sister Nellie Lou Schwager, and numerous loving nieces and nephews along with furry grand pups Takoda, Keira and Pilot.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the USO or Wounded Warriors. A Celebration of Life Open House will be held later in the fall, date and time to be announced.