Joanne Gardner

Joanne Gardner

Infobox soap character
series = Search for Tomorrow
portrayer = Mary Stuart
first =
last =
cause =
creator =

caption1 =
nickname =
alias =
gender = Female
born = ca. 1925
death =
occupation = Housewife
Proprietor of the Motor Haven Inn
Hospital Librarian
Hospital Personnel Director
City Councilwoman
Amateur Singer
title =
residence =
parents = Frank Gardner (deceased)
Helen Gardner (deceased)
siblings = Eunice Gardner Wyatt (deceased)
spouse = Keith Barron (deceased)
Arthur Tate (deceased)
Dr. Tony Vincente (deceased)
Martin Tourneur (divorced)
romances = Sam Reynolds (deceased)
children = Patti Tate
Duncan Eric Tate (deceased)
relatives = Suzi Wyatt Carter (niece, adopted daughter)

Joanne Gardner was the main character on the long-running soap opera "Search for Tomorrow". For 35 years, the role was played by actress Mary Stuart. She was referenced by many characters and by soap periodicals as simply Jo, especially in later years when it became difficult to assign her a definite last name.

Joanne was married four times, making her full legal name Joanne Gardner Barron Tate Vincente Tourneur. She was to marry Sam Reynolds in 1970, but he died while on business in Africa, leaving Joanne heartbroken.


A "salt of the earth" kind of heroine, Stuart's character was the understanding best friend who would love to (and usually did) commiserate with other characters about their sorrows over coffee. Usually counseling best friends Stu and Marge Bergman, her role shifted in the 1970s to counseling younger women on the program, when the actress who played Marge died, and Stu was given his own story.

Even when truly dismayed by actions (such as sister Eunice sleeping with her husband, or her daughter willfully marrying into a family who wanted to alienate her from her mother), she usually forgave offenders who showed true remorse. She got a reputation on the series for being "simple-minded" by forgiving and forgetting, as other characters (Irene Barron in the early days, Aunt Cornelia Simmons, Patti's in-law Andrea Whiting, and Stephanie Wilkins later) saw her to be weak and attempted to prey upon her. In true soap opera fashion, however, it was Joanne's rivals who ate crow.


Joanne was raised in the city of Henderson somewhere in the U.S. Midwest. Her parents were Frank Gardner, an accountant and Helen Gardner, who was a housewife. Helen died of heart disease in the mid-1950s. Joanne has at least one sibling, a sister named Eunice, who came to town and slept with Joanne's second husband Arthur Tate. However, Eunice reformed, apologized to Joanne, and became part of the family again.

Joanne attended Wilson Grammar School, Henderson High School and attended Henderson College (later Henderson University) for two years before marrying Keith Barron.


Joanne was whisked away from her college studies by wealthy Keith Barron, who married her and bought her a house in the town of Henderson. Shortly after, she gave birth to a daughter named Patricia (nicknamed Patti).

Keith's meddling mother Irene tried very hard to turn him away from Joanne, as Irene believed that Joanne wasn't nearly good enough for her son. Keith's sister was wise to Irene's controlling ways and tried to warn him, but to no avail. He died of injuries from a car accident in 1952, leaving Joanne a widow. Irene, sensing opportunity, fought for custody of young Patti, arguing that Joanne was simply unable to provide for her daughter. Joanne proved her wrong by buying and running the Motor Haven Inn. In an attempt to tarnish Joanne's reputation, Irene hired people to sabotage Joanne's inn. At the same time, Mafia thugs tried to take over control of the Inn, as they didn't believe a woman could be strong enough to run a business on her own. Both attempts failed, and Irene left town.

A local businessman, Arthur Tate (Terry O'Sullivan), was interested in financing the inn when Joanne experienced difficulties. Arthur and Joanne fell in love and were married. Patti, now in her early teens, was legally adopted by Arthur shortly after he married Joanne. In order to get enough money, Arthur persuaded his Aunt Cornelia to give him part of his inheritance. She agreed, if only to meddle in their affairs because like Irene, Cornelia hated Joanne and the stock she came from. Eventually, Aunt Cornelia died and Arthur earned all of his inheritance.

Arthur was not a strong man, but he loved Joanne. First, he became an alcoholic. Then, in 1962, a woman came to town suing him for paternity (it was really not his child). In 1963, Arthur and Joanne's son, Duncan Eric Tate, ran in front of a car and was killed, causing mental anguish for the both of them. Finally, Joanne's sister Eunice came to town and slept with him. The stress surrounding the possibility that he could shatter his marriage and his relationship with his daughter caused him to die of a heart attack in February 1966.

To keep herself busy after Arthur's death, Joanne took a job as the librarian at Henderson Hospital. A suitor came calling later in the year in the form of Sam Reynolds, who was Arthur's rival. To prove his worth to Joanne, he saved her daughter Patti when she was held at knifepoint (A nurse, Patti had access to drugs which the gang members wanted). Sam and Joanne started 1967 with major decisions. Sam offered to sell the Motor Haven Inn for her, while Joanne cut off her excess hair, which she had grown while married to Arthur. It was a soap event when Joanne took off her kerchief to show a modern hairstyle — one of her gifts to Sam.

While very devoted to one another, both Sam and Joanne were over the age of 40, and wished to take things slow. It was in 1969 when Sam proposed to Jo, with a wedding planned for 1970. However, Sam went on a trip to Africa and was presumed dead, leaving Joanne devastated. He would later return to town, but they could not rekindle their old feelings.

Later that year, Joanne lost her eyesight in a car accident, and neurosurgeon Dr. Tony Vincente saved her life. She regained her vision and fell in love with her doctor, whom she married in 1972. The actor who played Tony, Anthony George, did not like how his character developed, and was written out in June 1975, as Tony died of a heart attack in Jo's arms. At the age of 50, Joanne had endured the death of four significant others. Another devastating blow to Joanne came in 1976 when her sister Eunice, who had long since given up her scheming ways and reformed, was fatally shot by her husband's mistress. After Eunice's death, she adopted her niece, Suzi Martin.

In 1976, Joanne teamed up with her best friend Stu Bergman and bought the Hartford House, turning it into an upscale bed and breakfast. She would run this business until the inn was destroyed in an explosion in 1981.

Starting in the mid-1970s, Joanne was showcased less on the program. She became rivals with Stephanie Wilkins, who had an affair with her third husband, Tony, and later married John Wyatt, her former brother-in-law, out of spite. Joanne's final stories involved her romance with Martin Tourneur (John Aniston), whom she married in 1980. They were later divorced, which was considered a scandal because it was Joanne's first divorce. Mary Stuart confessed that because she had divorced him because of his infidelity, she laughingly considered herself the "world's oldest ingenue."

In early 1985, Jo's granddaughter Sarah Whitting came to town to pursue a music career as a folk singer. Sarah was hiding out inside an abandoned building in Henderson. One day it was caught on fire and Wendy & Quinn saved her life. When Sarah recovered after the fire, she told Jo that she left Seattle because their was problems with Patti and Len, her parents. Sarah also helped Jo & Stu turned the abandoned building that was caught on fire into another upscale bed & breakfast called, Caldwell House, which was also operated by a scheming man named Melvin Hibbard (Ralph Byers).

In October 1985, Jo received a letter from one of her ex husbands, Martin Tourneur. The letter explained about how he was in trouble. So Jo flew down from Henderson to San Marcos, to search for Martin. Someone was hurting him, but he ran away from a local hospital, before Jo could find out anything about Martin, his current whereabouts & why he was in this mess with the island. Jo then was boarding a plane to go back to Henderson, but was held captive by some people that were after Martin, who wanted to know where Martin is. She wasn't harmed and the two men let Jo go and they burn the letter that Martin gave to Jo. She then returned to Henderson to tell Liza Walton Sentell all about the accident that he was in that was described in the letter, it was also revealed by Jo that Martin's life was in danger, something that had to do about the past, including something that had to do with Lloyd Kendall's ex wife - Estelle Kendall. Later when Jo returned to The Caldwell House, she received a telegram from Martin. In this letter Martin tells her that he is no longer in San Marcos but he is somewhere safe, he also tells Jo that he still has feelings for her and that he still loves her. While Jo seeks information through Hogan McCleary, Adair McCleary and Chase Kendall goes to San Marcos in search for Martin but Adair and Chase finds Estelle Kendall - T.R.'s, Alex, Steve, and Chase's Mother also Lloyd's Wife, that supposedly died years ago but actually didn't. Eventually, Estelle learned about what had happened to Martin through Adair & Chase. After hearing about recent events in San Marcos, through the Henderson Herald newspaper, Jo becomes concerned along with Hogan about Bragg (Viggo Mortensen), the man who was hired by Hogan McCleary to investigate Martin and his connections to San Marcos.

In November 1985 - Jo was devastated when her granddaughter Sarah Whitting was murdered by her business partner for The Caldwell House, Melvin Hibbard who at the time, was plotting to destroy Joanne and her Bed and Breakfast. With Sarah dead, Melvin kidnapped Jo for revenge and so that he can kill her too and then ruin The Caldwell House.

In Feb. 1986, a major flood caused much destruction for the town of Henderson. Like many others, Jo survived the flood and helped everybody get back on their feet again after the flood was over. Then her daughter Patti came back to town after not being in Henderson for eight years. She came back to town to help her mother Jo and because she divorced her husband Len, who was still living in Seattle with his mother.

On December 26th, 1986 (The Final Episode Of Search For Tomorrow) - Jo watched as she witnessed Patti marrying Hogan Mccleary. Later in the evening Stu Bergman asked Jo "What is it Jo, what is it your'e searching for" she replies "Tomorrow, and i can't wait!", then they both hug as they look back on Thirty-Five years of friendship.


*"Parents": Frank Gardner, an accountant, "deceased"
*"Parents": Helen Gardner, a housewife, "deceased"
*"Siblings": Eunice Gardner Wyatt, "deceased" (ca. 1930-1976)
Patricia ("Patti") (born ca. 1945);
Duncan Tate, "deceased" (1956–1963)
Cord Tourneur (step-son)
*"Grandchildren": Sarah Whitting (deceased, 1985) (Via Patti Tate & Len Whitting)
**Keith Barron (1945-1952, "deceased")
**Arthur Tate (1955-1966, "deceased")
**Sam Renyolds (1970, "deceased") (engaged, to be married)
**Dr. Tony Vincente (1972-1975, "deceased")
**Martin Tourneur (1980-1984, divorced)


**Baldwin, Faith, Search for Tomorrow, Popular Library, 1966.
**LaGuardia, Robert, From Ma Perkins To Mary Hartman: The Illustrated History of Soap Operas, New York: Ballantine Books, 1977.
**LaGuardia, Robert, Soap World, New York: Arbor House, 1983.
**LaGuardia, Robert, The Wonderful World of TV Soap Opera, New York: Ballantine Books, 1974, revised 1977.

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