WHO’S NEW Michael and Mary Gardner
By: Mary Sheys
I first met Mike and Mary Gardner during one of their house-hunting trips last summer when Tom and I invited them for a tour of the Albemarle Sound aboard our boat Viator. Mike and Mary met us at the dock that morning, and I immediately felt like I’d always known them. They are engaging, fun loving, and adventurous. We had a great cruise that day, laughing and talking, and considering the merits of early retirement.
At the time, the Gardners lived in Norwalk, Connecticut. Mike commuted to Manhattan where he owned a staffing and recruitment business, while Mary was a financial manager for a high-end interior designer in Greenwich, Connecticut. Technically, they were already residents of Albemarle Plantation—they own a rental property on Flat Creek Drive—but they were in the market for something more suitable for their retirement. They were both familiar with the area, as they’d been vacationing in the Outer Banks for 20 years. Mike knew that this area would perfectly suit them, as it’s near the beach and has plenty of fresh water for wakeboarding, waterskiing, kayaking, and fishing—activities that they both enjoy. They were also eager to live in a community with likeminded people. They hadn’t expected things to move so rapidly, but as of April of 2018 they had found their beautiful home on Arabian Way in Belmont, sold their home in Connecticut —much more quickly than expected—and jumped into retirement with both feet.
Mike grew up in Norwalk, the eleventh of thirteen children. He and his six brothers played all sorts of sports in school. Mike honed his golf skills as a caddy at Birchwood Country Club as a teenager. Later he competed on an adult co-ed volleyball league and he has run 12 marathons.
Mary was born in Port Chester, New York, and grew up in Norwalk, the middle child in an Italian family. Her warm and friendly demeanor is a perfect complement to Mike's gregarious personality. Mary and Mike met at a church retreat in 1993. Mary admits that her daughter had to nearly drag her to the social event. She recalls the old school doors swinging open as Mike and his younger brother burst into the room and announced, “Let’s get this party started!” She told her daughter, “I want that man's number.”
Mary and Mike were married in 1994. They have three children and two grandchildren, ages 15 and 4 months. They have a second home in Vermont where the family gathers for summer vacations, boating on Harriman reservoir, or skiing and snowmobiling on nearby Mount Snow in the winter. The Gardners love to travel, and their adventures include skiing and snowboarding trips to Quebec, Ontario, and Montana and several trips to Italy. One of their favorite trips was a cooking and winery tour in Cortona, Italy, the location where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed.
One interesting fact that I learned about Mike is that his uncle is the late jazz pianist Fat Jack Gardner, a member of the Harry James Orchestra back in the 1960s. Jack once roomed with the legendary Frank Sinatra.
Now that they are settling into retirement life, the Gardners are highly involved and serve as ambassadors to welcome potential new residents to Albemarle Plantation. As members of the Paddler's Club, they explore the beautiful area waterways on their kayaks. They both regularly attend fitness classes at the community center, and Mary enjoys riding her bike around the neighborhood almost every morning. They are also very active in the Osprey Yacht Club.
Often, you can find Mike wakeboarding behind their Malibu power boat with Mary at the helm and their little dog Jackson on the bow. They enjoy taking friends waterskiing on the Yeopim River and anchoring at Secret Beach for an afternoon picnic. Mike and Mary love to entertain—their annual 4th of July party back in Connecticut was attended by hundreds of local friends and relatives—so they are looking forward to entertaining here once they settle in. We are all thrilled that they’ve chosen Albemarle Plantation as their home and are looking forward to partying with the Gardners. As Mike says, “Let's get this party started!”