Obituary: MARY JANE GARDNER

by
06 April 2011

The Very Revd Gerald Stranraer-Mull writes:

MARY GARDNER, who was killed on 23 March when a bomb exploded in Jerusalem, had devoted 22 years to translating the New Testament into the Ife language of Togo, West Africa. It was published in 2009, and she was in Jerusalem studying at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus, before her planned return to Togo in June, to begin work on translating the Old Testament.

Mary was born in Nairobi, and con­tinued to live in Kenya until she was 15. On the family’s return to Scot­land, she completed her educa­tion at Albyn, a private school for girls in Aberdeen, and then at St Andrews University. She taught French in the Orkney Isles, based at Stromness Academy, and was a member of the congregation of St Mary’s, Stromness, representing it at synods of the diocese of Aberdeen & Orkney for several years.

In her late 20s, however, she began training with Wycliffe Bible Trans­lators, and eventually went to Togo. She was part of a small international team working on the Ife translation, besides training local translators, and developing literacy skills in all the villages within reach.

It was a radical change for a shy, quiet, gentle girl, and for more than 20 years she lived a frugal life in a Togo township. In a letter she wrote: “Living in Africa can be a strange mixture. Termites are eating their way through my office door, a snake poked its head out through the crack between the old, unused air-con­ditioning unit and the wall, and outside fetish priestesses dance in the streets, but at the same time we live in a world of computers and email. We have running water and electricity (most of the time), but the road to our house has been described by visitors as one of the worst they have ever been on.”

On the day of her death, Mary had left her studies to have lunch with an old friend who had come to Jeru­salem on pilgrimage. She was walk­ing past a bus stop near the Jerusalem Convention Centre as the bomb ex­ploded. Thirty-eight others were injured in the blast.

Mary was 55, unmarried, and the oldest of five children. Her parents, Tony and Jean, continue to live in Aberdeenshire.

May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

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