A Naperville man attempting to help a family of ducklings safely cross Interstate Highway 294 was killed Monday when he was struck by a limousine, state police said.
Edward Gardner was traveling north when he pulled over near Schiller Park about 9:30 a.m. because he saw a family of ducklings on the tollway, Illinois State Police Sgt. Nick Hasan said. That’s when the limousine, which police said wasn’t speeding, hit him. Gardner's girlfriend was inside his vehicle.
The 38-year-old was pronounced dead about four hours later at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
“That’s totally Ed,” said Jim Gollwitzer, a longtime friend of Gardner’s. “That’s just how big of a heart he had.”
Gardner, who worked in the telecommunications industry, had dedicated much of his life to helping animals, Gollwitzer said. He spent his vacations volunteering at a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico, doing construction work and whatever odd jobs needed to be done there.
“He cared about animals,” Gollwitzer said. “It was one of his passions in life.”
Gardner’s other passion was muscle cars, in particular the 1960 Chevrolet Parkwood that he spent years restoring. Before Gardner purchased the station wagon, it had been used as an outdoor shed and was considered by many to be unsalvageable, Gollwitzer said.
But Gardner spent hours on the vehicle, transforming it from a rusted junker into an award-winning masterpiece. He painted it bright orange, a color choice he made while eating a bag of Cheetos in his garage one night.
To honor his gastronomic muse, he spray-painted a picture of mascot Chester Cheetah on the tailgate.
“He poured his heart into that car,” Gollwitzer said. “It meant a lot to him.”
It also meant a lot to car show crowds, who would gather around his car to reminisce about childhoods spent in Parkwood wagons. Gardner enjoyed listening to their stories and took great pride in the fact this car made people happy, Gollwitzer said.
The Parkwood won about 60 awards after Gardner began showing it, including several national prizes.
He recently disassembled the car to upgrade it in time for the summer show season. Members of his car club -- The Bad Bowties -- plan to put it back together in the coming days, said Gollwitzer, who is president of the club.
“It’s what Ed would have wanted,” he said. “It’s important that we do this for him.”
State police are investigating the incident, but no citations were issued to the driver of the limousine, Hasan said.