A Time to be Born and Born again
It was a balmy 34 degrees on Saturday January 7, 1956, when the youngest child of Samuel and Theresa Finley was born in Chicago, Illinois. A family friend said that she was the prettiest baby she had ever seen. And so, began the life of Reverend Beverly Lynette Finley Gardner.
Bev’s parents, as well as her brother Maurice, have all preceded her in death.
As a young child, Beverly joined Original Providence Baptist Church under the leadership of Reverend Dr. E.T. Thornton. Aside from time spent away at college, her membership never wavered, serving faithfully until her passing.
A Time to Learn
Beverly had a lifelong love of learning; both formal and informal beginning when she attended Marcy Center, a settlement house in the Lawndale community, for pre-school. Her grammar school years were spent at Jacob Beidler Elementary and J. Sterling Morton Upper Grade Center graduating in 1969. It was during these years that she met and maintained lifelong friendships and relationships. Because her parents wanted the best for their youngest child, the family moved to Evanston, Illinois, graduating from Evanston Township High School in 1973.
Those that knew Bev during these years can attest to her proficiency in many of life’s social aspects. She was a swimmer, could hit a baseball as far as the eye could see, roller-skated with the best of them, a skier - participating in a plethora of winter sports, silly in the kind sense of the word - How many of you remember her rendition of Nancy Wilson’s, Face It Girl?, doing karaoke before it became a thing. She was a fisherman and taught many a child how to catch Bass, Blue Gills, and Crappies. She could build campfires and roast those s’mores too. These talents would serve her in the years to come as she coordinated and took her nephews, her godchildren, their children and many of their friends and her friends too, to her favorite place on earth; Idlewild, Michigan.
Many people fail to recognize or acknowledge God’s gifts in their youth, but she did, embarking on a quest to be trained in the medical profession. In May 1977 she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Fisk University. She continued her education, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Rush University College of Nursing graduating in 1981. Between then and 1994, Bev had her children and decided that she wanted her life to be more in tune with theirs and so she returned to school, earning her certification in School Nursing.
In May 1996, Rev. Bev accepted her call to ministry and preached her first trial sermon; receiving her license to preach the gospel from Rev. Dr. E.T. Thornton. Because Rev. Thornton valued the importance of education for ministers, Rev. Bev entered Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary earning the Master of Divinity Degree in 2000.
A Time to Serve her Church
As a lifelong active member of Original Providence, Rev. Bev began her service to the Lord at a very young age. She participated in the following musical groups: Children’s, Youth, Young Adult, JAMS, PIE, Praise Team, and the McClenney Chorale where she sang alto. She was on the Youth Usher Board and the Clothing Ministry where she gave a word of encouragement to those in need; the Bereavement Ministry where she ministered to those that lost love ones. She attended and taught Sunday School. She helped to organize both the Christmas and Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaways. She also served as Interim Pastor and Assistant to the Pastor. Additionally, she worked in the church Nursery and at Vacation Bible School. Lastly, in addition to being a member of the Women’s Auxiliary, she also at times served as the President, 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President and Chaplain.
Rev. Bev believed that church is also outside its walls; because of this belief, she mentored and counseled both the churched and unchurched, bringing many into the fold. She often said: “If you believe with your heart and confess with your mouth you are saved.”
She was never loud and overbearing but rather calm, humble, pleasant, with a smile and laugh that drew many to her, resulting in her being a confidant to many.
Her favorite gospel song was “Something About the Name Jesus.”
But of all these things, if here, she would just tell you that she loved God and all of his people.
A Time to Serve the Community
Rev. Gardner was a member of and participated in many organizations outside her membership at Original Providence. They include: The Women of Prayer, The National Consortium of Women in Ministry, The Arise Ministry, Baptist Church Fellowship, Older Boys and Girls Conference, Idlewilders and The Posse.
A Time to Love
Larry and Bev met in a social setting in 1981 and married on April 23, 1988. They had been together 40+ years at the time of her transition.
To this union two children were born, Larry James in 1988 and Tracey Lynette in 1990. She loved them both beyond measure. But oh, those grandchildren! From the very beginning they held a special place in her heart. Jahleel Samuel, the oldest, referred to her as Gramby while Laken Eli, referred to her as Grandma.
A Time to Work
Bev began her professional career as a Registered Nurse (RN) at Rush Presbyterian St. Luke Medical Center now known simply as RUSH; working for 17 years in the New Life Family Center taking care of mothers and their newborns after giving birth. While she loved this work, after she became a mother herself, she soon switched employers and became a school nurse for the Chicago Public School (CPS) system in 1994. She spent her last years working at Rodgers Elementary School where some of her peers affectionately referred to her as “The Preaching Nurse.” Though she formally retired from CPS in 2017, she was so well thought of that her employment continued with them part time up until she transitioned.
A Time to Relax
Anyone who knew Rev Bev was aware of how much she loved Idlewild, Michigan. It was her happy place, her tranquil place, a place where she could commune with nature.
Idlewild is where she honed her fishing skills. A place where she enjoyed her favorite ice cream flavor - Blue Moon.
Bev also loved the Christmas holidays; first because it was the time that Christ was born but moreover, it was also a time to commune with family and friends. She especially loved gift giving; ask any of her nephews and they would tell you how she always knew the special toy to get for them.
As a child, Beverly was introduced to Ravinia Festival by her parents and enjoyed many summer evenings listening to music; another favorite place if she happened to be in the city, into adulthood.
Rev. Bev also loved Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. MJ was her favorite singer by far and she knew the words to all their songs and would even try to sing them too (now that was hilarious!).
A Time to Enter God’s Kingdom
On Monday, the evening of March 29, 2021, Reverend Beverly Lynette Finley- Gardner went home to be with the Lord. She leaves to cherish her memory; her husband Larry Gardner, children Larry James and Tracey Lynette; grandchildren Jahleel Samuel and Laken Eli, Nephews; Maurice Curtis, Brandon Sinclair, Ne’Shaun Connor, Jamari Mechi, and Jalen Reese. Godchildren Daniel LaRay, Marc Anthony, Michael Little, Ashley Caryn, Sharon Monique, Antonio Cerone and Daniel Trevon and the ultimate sister-in-love Sheila Finley. In addition, we especially acknowledge the Gardner clan as they too are part of the family circle. Lastly, there are many lifelong friends, relatives, acquaintances and co-workers too numerous to name, but all were blessed to have had her in their lives.
Reverend Gardner loved God, her church and her family immensely.
Love is always forever.
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