Charles Doud/The Madera Tribune
Fred Gartner and Marcella Andrews, taking the dance floor during his 100th birthday party Jan. 4.
Fred Gartner of Madera on Friday turned 100, and dozens of his friends and family turned out to celebrate with him at the Madera Municipal Golf Course banquet hall.
The party was hosted by his great and good friend and companion, Marcella Andrews, who said she took up with Gartner some 17 years ago because of his skill on the dance floor at a senior citizens dance they both attended.
“He was the best dancer there,” Andrews said, “and an old-school gentleman.”
Fred Otto Gartner was born Jan. 4, 1919, in a small town near Liepzig, Germany, an industrial city near the center of the country. When he was 20 — almost 21, he said — he found himself in the German Army as a driving instructor for youth coming into the Nazi war machine.
When the German army invaded Russia, Gartner was put in charge of a supply company on the eastern front. When the fighting was over, some 9 million, collectively, in the military forces of both nations were dead.
Eventually, Gartner returned to his hometown only to find his jewelry and clock business had been bombed.
Later, the Russians came in when they took over East Germany in 1945 after the Potsdam Agreement was signed.
Gartner found it tough going trying to rebuild his business, but all was not work and tough times.
He met a beautiful girl named Gisela, in a dance class, and they began to date.
Eventually, the two married, and in 1950, the couple immigrated to New York City.
There, Gartner was hired by Tiffany’s, the famous jeweler of New York, and found himself repairing clocks for many well known people, including the Duke of Windsor.
Eventually, he moved his family to Sunnyvale, where he began buying and remodeling homes, then selling them again. Today, that process is known as “flipping.”
His first wife died after 20 years, and he met and married a second, who had connections in Kerman and Madera, where the couple eventually moved. She also died after 20 years. A third wife died in 2001.
That same year, he met Marcella Andrews, and the pair soon became close companions. They have been on numerous cruises, including sojourns to Alaska, Hawaii, Tahiti and the Panama Canal. They also have cruised the Danube, the Rhine and other great rivers of Europe.
Gartner enjoys painting pictures, reading, conversing with old friends and making new ones.
He also still enjoys taking a turn on the dance floor with his dear Marcella.