(Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of Pages From The Past, a feature in the Novato Advance. Lee Gerner is in the news 25 years after his death because of the homeless encampment that now occupies the park that bears his name. The full column will be in the July 28 edition of the Novato Advance.)
— Leroy M. “Lee” Gerner, whose passion for plants and eye for design led to the transformation of a bare Novato creekside into a downtown oasis, died Friday, July 26, 1996 at Kaiser Hospital in San Rafael. He was named Novato Citizen of the Year in 1972, was 82. He had had heart problems for several years. In his 45 years in Marin County, Lee Gerner left his mark. A native of St. Mary’s, W.V., Leroy Meredith Gerner was a small boy when his family came to California. He grew up in Santa Ana. He was working for the Post Office there when the U.S. entered World War II. The Army took advantage of his postal experience; he spent two years working in military post offices in the South Pacific. In 1944 he got a stateside assignment as one of two supervisors of the fleet post office in San Francisco.