Willie Lee Gardner, 87, of Dover, died Friday, Feb. 11, 2011.

Willie Lee Gardner, 87, of Dover, died Feb. 11, 2011, surrounded by his family.

Born July 16, 1923, in Wilson County, N.C., Mr. Gardner was the son of the late Sudie Gardner and Turner Hawks.

He was reared in Wilson County and educated in the Wilson County public schools. Mr. Bill, as he was as known by many, moved to Dover in 1946.

Mr. Gardner was employed by the United State’s Postal Service. Upon retirement, he proceeded with a career in driving dump trucks until his health declined. His main hobbies were horse racing and bingo.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a sister and a brother.

Mr. Gardner is survived by his wife of 60 years, Essie Mae Gardner of Dover; three daughters, Andrea Gardner of Felton, Martha Cox and her husband Elder Henry, and Mary Lucas and her husband George, all of Wilson, N.C.; 10 grand children; 15 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

He also is survived by a brother, Leroy Gardner of Wilson, N.C.; a sister-in-law, Lucy Gardner of Wilson, N.C.; three nieces, including a special niece, Mechelle Hayes of Wilson, N.C.; three great-nieces; three great-great nieces; seven nephews, including a special nephew whom he reared as a son, Anthony Johnson of Milford; six great-nephews; three great-great nephews; a loving cousin, Mattie Ruth Harris of Wilson, N.C.; a devoted friend, Mary Tucker of Dover; a long-time friend, Jessie Speight of Wilson, N.C.; and a host of cousins, other relatives and friends.