Local leader John Garner: ‘A glowing example of a gentleman’

An accomplished athlete went on to become a teacher, coach, principal and county councilman.

John Garner

John Garner

MARYSVILLE — John Garner had a remarkable knack for leadership as an athlete, Navy officer, teacher, coach, principal, city administrator and Snohomish County Council member.

He also is the correct answer to several questions for local sports and education trivia buffs.

Question: Who holds the Everett Junior College football team record for a 99-yard interception return?

Answer: John Garner

Q: Who was first baseman and team captain for the EJC Trojans baseball team that won the state championship in 1951, and team captain the following year at University of Washington?

A: John Garner

Q: Who, in 1963, was the first football coach at Meadowdale High School?

A: John Garner

Q: Who was principal when Marysville and Pilchuck high schools merged in the 1970s?

A: John Garner

And the list goes on.

His accomplishments — from Edmonds School District and Everett Community College Hall of Fame athlete to Boy Scout, Rotary and YMCA board member — covered a wide swath of Snohomish County over many decades.

Johnnie Lemar Garner Jr., born on New Year’s Day in 1931, died Feb. 21 in Bellevue. He was 90 and had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s, according to a family obituary. He spent his final days surrounded by loved ones.

Garner’s lifelong dedication to bettering the lives of those around him will be missed by many, including Bob Drewel, a colleague and friend of 45 years.

“John Garner was one of those people I never heard anybody say a bad word about, and that’s a rather significant achievement when you hold a position in elected office,” said Drewel, a former Everett Community College president who served as Snohomish County executive from 1992 to 2004. “I think the word gentleman was created for him. He was frankly one of the most kind, sincere, honored, principled people I ever had the honor to work with.”

Garner was born in San Diego, California. After a series of childhood moves as a Navy brat, Garner settled in Snohomish County with his family. He graduated from Edmonds High School in 1949. Garner went on to attend EJC for two years. He then completed his Naval Officer’s Training program and returned to Seattle to finish his education at the University of Washington, where he played baseball. He retired in 1973 as a commander in the Navy Reserves.

In 2016, he was inducted into the Everett Community College Hall of Fame for both baseball and football.

From 1970 to 1982, Garner was principal of Marysville Pilchuck High School. He went on to serve as Marysville city administrator for six years and was elected to the Snohomish County Council in 1993, where he served four years.

Connie Mennie, communications administrator for the City of Marysville, worked as a legislative aide for Garner when he served on the council. She said Garner was one of the first people to make her feel welcome when she moved to the county at age 25 for a newspaper reporting job at the Marysville Globe. Since then, she’s always looked up to Garner, both in career and character.

“His reputation? Smart, principled and always fair. When I interviewed him for news stories, John reinforced those attributes over and over,” Mennie wrote in a thank-you letter dedicated to Garner she posted online in 2015. “Working with him was always a joy, and I aspired to someday be the kind of person that he was.”

Garner is survived by his second wife, Maxine Paige, sister Mary Olson, and children, Jeff Garner (Mary), Kyle Garner, Jane Garner Roe (Robert) and Jana Garner Koeberle. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Jayson and Landon Garner, Andrea, Chelsey and Matt Roe, Olivia and Colin Koeberle, as well as six great-grandchildren.

His first wife, Noreen Garner, died of ovarian cancer in 2002, just days before their 50th wedding anniversary. Donations in John’s Garner’s memory may be sent to the Noreen H. Garner Nursing Scholarship Fund at Everett Community College Foundation, 2000 Tower St., Everett, WA 98201 or made online at everettcc.edu/foundation or to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund at 34 Washington St., Suite 310, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481 or made online at curealz.org/giving/donate/.

“If you run into people in Marysville and Everett and say ‘John Garner,’ people’s faces just light up,” Mennie said. “He was just a glowing example of a gentleman.”

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen; Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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