Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
When my wife Cherie and I moved here in 1998 we did so because we wanted our children to grow up in a wholesome environment away from the lifestyle of the Bay Area. We had heard that Lathrop/Manteca was a family community and we wanted to become a part of it. We never fully realized how good a community it is until the death of our oldest son, Christopher Berlin Gardner, on July 1, 2012.
The whole Lathrop/Manteca area has rallied to our side in our time of need and we are truly grateful. From our family and friends, to local business people we have known for 14 years, to new acquaintances, everyone has treated us as “family.” We have shed tears and hugs with Lathrop City Councilmember Sonny Dhaliwal, Principal Suzan L. Turner-Kelley at Joseph Widmer Jr. School (where Christopher did his Eagle Project), our family physician Dr. Rahul Patel, the proprietor of Parklane Cleaners, Lathrop Target Pharmacist Amir Kahn, the Realon Dental Office, and the sales clerk at the Valero gas station in Lathrop. The Manteca Bulletin saw fit to run a front page story to honor this pillar of the community, our son Christopher.
Matt Sickler, owner of The Emory Hall, made the use of his establishment available on short notice so we could provide Christopher with a celebration of his life. Likewise, Fagundes Catering and Rose Cart Florist provided their services on short notice too.
Our neighbor and Christopher’s Scoutmaster Chris Stolz, who is like a second father to our sons, helped us tremendously and through his own pain organized the celebration and put together a video presentation, programs, and performed master of ceremony duties. Boy Scout Troop 422 parents Bill and Joanne Neilson and Bill and Theresa Lorentz came to our aid in our time of need, without solicitation, to organize, set up, tear down, and clean the hall along with members of Troop 422 besides also providing us with spiritual strength and love.
Christopher’s EMT mentor and friend William Anderson helped us to give Christopher a loving send off by performing a ritual reserved for public service brothers - handing off the EMT flag to Chris’ Mother and playing of Amazing Grace on bagpipes. William has also stepped in as a role model for our youngest son Stephan who lost his best friend. Christopher’s fiancé Rebekah Doran and neighbors Erik (Chris’s best friend) and Ryan Stolz are also in touch with Stephan and have been by his side through it all.
Our daughter’s boyfriend David and been a fixture by her side since that day and we are thankful for his strength and Love and for his parents who have allowed him to spend time with our daughter to help her with the healing process. Also a very close family friend from Southern California, Darlene Martin and her husband John, drove up here to be with us with their Love and support and also created a video of Christopher’s life told through pictures.
John Richers, CEO/Scout Executive for the Sequoia Council contacted us on behalf of Camp Chawanakee, the Boy Scout camp where Christopher worked as an EMT, to express the condolences of the entire staff. They have decided to honor Christopher’s memory by naming a new cabin to be built this Fall.
Our family has been by our side in our time of need and I don’t know how we would have made it this far without them. Their Love, generosity, and support will never be forgotten. The saying is very true that in your time of need you can always count on family. As we continue our grieving and healing we know that our extended family and friends are there for us. We Love you all with all of our hearts.
I’m sure there are others we have forgotten to mention in this letter, which we are sorry for. Please know you are all in our hearts and prayers. We are honored to be a part of the Lathrop/Manteca community. Thank you all and God Bless.
July 30, 2012