PIEDMONT -- After 40 years as a dentist, Dr. Allen J. Gardner looked forward to retirement.
An active retirement.
Never one to sit idle -- and far too young at the time to even consider it -- Gardner needed something to help fill his time. And the Piedmont resident neither had to look far nor take long to find it.
"As it was, they were looking for volunteers here at the (Piedmont) Police Department," Gardner said.
Thus began a second career for Gardner -- one that started in 1984. And one that continues strong 28 years later. Now 90, Gardner has become a respected mainstay in the department's property and evidence room, where he volunteers his services on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.
Known as "Doc" by friends and colleagues, he continues to inspire those around him.
"He's a marvelous person, absolutely marvelous," said former Piedmont police Chief Lisa Ravazza. "His integrity is beyond reproach in any way, shape or form. And I don't think that I can estimate the number of hours he has volunteered. His heart is into dedicating himself to service."
Serving others has been a lifelong passion for Gardner, who went directly into the Army after graduating from dental school. He went into private practice four years later, going on to have an office on Oakland's famous "Pill Hill."
As had been the case in dentistry, Gardner's background in science and technology has served him well as a police volunteer, where he also has to keep up with the latest advances.
"Imagine going all the way through the Depression and World War II to cellphones and computers," said Piedmont interim police Chief Scott Wyatt. "When you walk in (to Gardner's workplace), he's on the computer."
In his tenure as a police volunteer, Gardner also has sent notices to people whose alarms have gone off and done house checks for fellow residents away on vacation. But his primary focus is the property and evidence room. And Gardner's dedication and willingness to grow with the job have earned him respect throughout the department.
"Since I've been here, he's been in charge of our evidence locker along with another longtime volunteer, Stan Silverman (who has had a much shorter tenure than Gardner)," Wyatt said. "They have been trained on how to properly handle evidence. They know when to remove things at the appropriate time."
A property and evidence room can become hectic. Mishandled, misplaced or contaminated evidence will ruin a case. To that end, the expertise of Gardner and his fellow volunteers has become particularly valued.
"An evidence locker tends to pile up over time," Wyatt said. "But here, it's neat, it's organized. I've (worked in an evidence room), too. It's not easy."
And Gardner never has been averse to helping out during his "off" hours.
"We would be working on something, and (officers) would ask if we could get Doc in early," Ravazza said. "We'd call and he'd say, 'I'll be down in a minute.' He's like the Energizer Bunny. And he's just a fountain of knowledge."
Dedication to serving the community seems to run in Gardner's family. His son, Michael Gardner, serves as chairman of the Piedmont Public Safety Committee.
"They're a very giving, community-oriented family," Wyatt said.
A resident since 1964, Gardner calls Piedmont a nice place to live. And he has dedicated himself to help keep it that way.
But it gets challenging.
"I think our society is getting away from volunteers," Gardner said. "When I first came here, we had 20 volunteers; now we have five. Maybe there were more people not working then than there are today, but we need more (volunteers)."
Others echo that sentiment.
"He's a great guy. We're lucky to have him, and we'd like to have more people like him," Wyatt said.