Edward G. Gardner, co-founder of Soft Sheen Products and beloved philanthropist, dead at 98

Edward G. Gardner’s hair care line started in his home basement and grew to be one the largest Black-owned businesses of its kind in the nation.

Mr. Gardner, a co-founder of Soft Sheen Products Inc., died Monday at his home in the West Chesterfield neighborhood, where he spent almost all of his life. He was 98, his family said.

“He was my father, my hero, my teacher,” said Gary Gardner, one of Mr. Gardner’s four children. “I feel blessed to have had Ed Gardner as my father. He was the embodiment of the hard-working, family-focused, responsible Black father. He taught me the value of a strong work ethic.”

Mr. Gardner was also a well-known philanthropist. He donated tens of thousands of dollars to causes that sought to end gun violence; to that end, he helped create the nonprofit organization Black On Black Love.

He helped elect the city’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington, in 1983 — loaning the Washington campaign his creative staff as well as helping fund a voter registration campaign.

In addition to his son Gary, survivors include three other children, Terri, Guy and Tracy, and his wife, Bettiann.

A private family service is planned.

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