Douglass Gaarde said his love for his wife, Kathleen, “bloomed” from the moment they met in Tallahassee in 1970.
It grew through marriage, the births of two children, advancing careers and family vacations.
“We’ve only been apart less than two months in 43 years,” Gaarde said, his voice quavering during his eulogy for Kathleen.
“I looked forward to our time together in retirement, but that won’t happen now.”
The 62-year-old financial analyst from Woodbridge was one of 12 victims being laid to rest in the wake of the Navy Yard shootings.
At least two other victims of the mass shooting were remembered in services Tuesday.
Friends and relatives of John “J.J.” Johnson, 73, gathered at a private memorial service in Gaithersburg. And another private service was scheduled in the evening in Fairfax County to honor Mary Frances DeLorenzo Knight, 51.
Tuesday night’s service for Kathleen Gaarde at the Mountcastle Turch Funeral Home in Woodbridge drew hundreds of mourners.
A Navy admiral presented Douglass Gaarde with a flag and a Navy trumpeter played taps as the many sailors in attendance stood at attention.
Kathleen Gaarde worked for the Naval Sea Systems Command for 32 years.
Douglass Gaarde remembered his wife as someone who always put others before herself.
He said Kathleen brought a sister with terminal cancer to Virginia, helped him through the death of his own parents and cared for her 94-year-old mother until the end.
He said Kathleen would not have approved of the pomp of the service, but he glanced heavenward and offered her a joking rebuke during the eulogy: “Tough.”
Kathleen Gaarde was born and raised in Chicago. She graduated from Florida State University, where she met her husband.
They were married and moved to Northern Virginia in the mid-1970s.
Kathleen started at the Naval Sea Systems Command in 1981 and worked her way up to financial analyst.
In her spare time, she worked as a bluebird monitor at the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
She loved animals in general. She also was a big Washington Capitals fan.
In retrospect, Christopher Gaarde said he was thankful his car broke down two weeks before his mother’s death.
It gave him a chance to visit with his parents. They ate lunch and chatted, just as they had done so often.
He was thankful because he told his mother he loved her — the last time he would do that.
“How do you say goodbye to someone who was always calling?” Gaarde asked. “How do you say goodbye to someone you expected to see tomorrow?
“I still don’t have the answer.”