Naunie Barrus Gardner
Naunie Barrus Gardner
May 16, 1930 – October 29, 2016
The world lost a beautiful mother, grandmother, teacher, opera singer, and friend when our beloved Naunie Gardner passed away on October 29th, 2016 after suffering a stroke.
Naunie was born on May 16, 1930 to Benjamin Marriner “Mern” and Nellie Zelnora VanNoy Barrus in Fairview, WY. Her father died when Naunie was four, but her mother’s pioneer spirit, faith, and enterprising character carried the family through the Great Depression. Nellie later married Orville “Ebb” Richardson, and he became a dear stepfather to young Naunie.
Naunie was born with music in her heart and soul. She became a self-taught pianist at a very early age and grew to be both an accomplished pianist and vocalist. Naunie graduated from historic Ogden High School in 1948, where she was a principal pianist in the music program.
On Nov. 21, 1951, Naunie Barrus married Brigham Delworth Gardner. Together they bore three children: Brigham, Naunie Marie, and Bruce. The family spent time living in Laramie, WY; Chicago, IL; Fort Collins, CO; and both Provo and Logan, UT. Naunie attended BYU and Utah State University, where she earned a BA with a composite major in Voice and Piano and an MA in Vocal Performance. In Logan, Naunie performed leads in many operatic productions, including Madame Butterfly, Cinderella, Rigoletto, Die Fledermaus, and Song of Norway. She and Gardner later divorced. “Del” met and married Kathryn Gardner, whom Naunie grew to love and admire deeply.
Naunie then began what was to become her lifelong career: teaching music, saying it was one of her “most delightful, insightful, loving, and exciting musical adventures in life.” She was an extraordinary music educator. She joined the UNR faculty, where she taught voice for over 20 years. She simultaneously taught music at both Carson City and Reno elementary schools and went on to teach at Carson, Reno, and Sparks High Schools and Lena Juniper Elementary. Naunie was renowned for her exciting music programs, which inspired many people over the years as her reputation for excellence grew. She brought the love of music to every person she had the joy of teaching. Her high school choirs consistently won the highest marks at all-state and regional competitions. Naunie directed Sparks High’s “Skyfire,” a regional and international award-winning show choir. Skyfire was often referred to as “the best high school show choir in the US.”
Naunie was also a leading soprano soloist for Nevada Opera in its early years. She thrilled audiences with her gorgeous spinto lyric soprano voice. Her principal soprano roles were sung from the heart. She also maintained a private vocal studio and trained hundreds of students in the art of classical singing and opera.
Naunie was a bright light into so many lives. She possessed a zest for life and music performance. She will never be forgotten as a wonderful, loving, and giving mother, opera singer, mentor, teacher, friend, and more. Her children will forever carry with them the cherished memory of her magnificent afternoon practice sessions of pieces such as Debussy’s Clair de Lune, Arabesque, and Lecuona’s Malagueña. Her legacy carries on and with it, the gift of music.
Surviving are her 3 children: Brigham E. Gardner (wife Jane), Naunie M. Gardner (fiancé Chris Thomassian), and Bruce B. Gardner (wife Diane); 7 grandchildren: Brigham David Gardner, Holly Hecht, Whitney McMullin, Genna Lasko, Randi Hecht, Greg Gardner, and Cole Gardner; and five great-grandchildren. To her family we also add Naunie’s best friend and kindred spirit for 39+ years, Kathleen Kimmel, whose enduring friendship and musical partnership Naunie always treasured.
Naunie loved animals and supported the ASPCA. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor her can donate to the animal charity of their choice.
Please visit and share your sentiments with Naunie’s loved ones on the “Remembering Naunie B. Gardner” Facebook page. A Celebration of Life will be held near the Christmas holidays, TBA.