Born: July 25, 1923
Died: November 15, 2010
Married: Thomasina (Tommie) Swan Gallagher
Children: William, Gail, Jill, Ann, Kevin, Robert and Beth.
William F. Gallagher IV was born in Hempstead, Long Island to William F. Gallagher, III, and Ferol Christian Gallagher. The family moved to Ravena where Bill graduated from high school with academic honors and athletic awards. He attended Princeton University where he played varsity football and baseball and was named All-Eastern in football.
During his sophomore year he enlisted in the army serving in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Returning to Princeton in 1946, he played varsity football, and was later invited to train with the New York Yankee Pro Football Team.
In 1952 he received a master's in physical education from Columbia University and took a teaching and coaching position at Saranac Lake High School, where he was employed for forty years. After retiring, he developed a mentoring program for at-risk students at Petrova Elementary School. He also served as town Athletic Director and helped start free youth programs in skiing, skating and swimming. For years he made a skating rink each winter, which often involved getting up at intervals throughout the night to water it. He was also an active member of the Saranac Lake Golf Club.
He was a member of the St. Vincent DePaul Society of St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church, a Crop Walk organizer, Peace and Justice fundraiser, a fundraiser for Bread for the World, and he served as Saranac Lake Village Trustee, Harrietstown Councilman and Harrietstown Town Supervisor.
He baked of hundreds of loaves of bread for many organizations to sell at fundraisers, sponsored children through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, contributed to Doctors Without Borders, delivered Meals On Wheels, and volunteered at the Winter Olympics.
He raised funds and contributed to a number of civic organizations, including the Saranac Lake Free Library; he taught English, reading and writing to Haitians at Ray Brook Prison, and hosted Fresh Air Students, foreign students, visiting clergy and many others in his home.
He was a recipient of the Martin Luther King Award, and the President's Youth Service Award.
November 10, 2007
A veteran of the 10th Mountain Division
By Howard Riley
The 10th Mountain Division is playing a major role in the war in Iraq ... but on a cold Nov. 15, 1941, 66 years ago, it was just being born as the 1st Battalion, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, and Bill Gallagher of Saranac Lake was one of the early recruits of that elite fighting outfit.
Sounded like a vacation
It's a great story of how he decided to join the "ski troops" when he was a sophomore at Princeton University. Gallagher said, "This roommate of mine, Johnny Ryan, came up one day with this 'propaganda' about a recruiting program for these mountain troops. ... It sounded like a good deal. ... Ryan said you live in snow caves in the mountains, and they teach you how to ski. ... It sounded more like a vacation to me than it did like joining the Army ... and we were going to be drafted anyway." He volunteered in December 1942 and was accepted for training in March 1943.
Gallagher continued, "While the Selective Service was drafting all physically fit young men, 'Minnie's Ski Troop,' as the outfit came to be known, was requiring letters of recommendation from all potential recruits ... and most were expected to be at least adequate skiers ... but the legend was stricter than the truth."
He supplied the required letters from his Princeton football coach and others, but he had never skied before joining the unit. He said many of the recruits from the South had no idea how to ski.
"Minnie" was actually C. Minot Dole, founder of the National Ski Patrol. He spent his summers here and is buried at St. John's in the Wilderness in Paul Smiths. He and others had gone to Gen. George Marshall with the idea for the ski troops because of their admiration for the heroic efforts of the outnumbered Finnish soldiers who fought on skis to hold off Russians invading their country in 1940. The other prime movers behind the 10th Mountain Division were Robert Livermore, a member of the 1936 Olympic Ski Team; Roger Langley, president of the National Ski Association; and Alexander Bright, one of the leading American downhill skiers of his day.
More than skiing
Gallagher said that every member of his unit soon became an expert downhill skier. However, he remembers snowshoeing much of the time because it was much easier carrying a .30-caliber machine gun on snowshoes. They went to "mule school" to learn how to handle the temperamental beasts, which were used to transport their equipment through the snow and rough terrain where conventional vehicles could not go. The unit trained for 18 months at Fort Hale in the Colorado Rockies.
After that basic training, life took quite a detour for Gallagher while they were at Camp Smith in Texas, awaiting orders to go overseas.
He had been a lifeguard in Ravena (where he graduated from high school) at a pool that had been built as a WPA project. He recalls that they brought up sand from the Hudson River to complete the job.
A young lady from Ravena had a friend down from Troy one summer to visit by the name of Thomasina Swan - that is how Bill met Tommie, and we can safely cliché 63 years later that the rest is history.
Gallagher had a furlough from Camp Smith in the fail of 1944 and on Sept 10 that year, they were married by Father McManus in St. Peter's Church in Troy.
Combat In Italy
When Gallagher's outfit left for Europe, they expected they were going to go right into the Battle of the Bulge. They landed in Naples, he said, and then by boat and truck arrived and camped out in the vicinity of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
They were soon in the Battle of Mt. Belvedere, the highest mountain in the Apennines, when he was hit in the leg by German machine-gun fire. (A buddy of his was hit by the same machine gun rounds that day, and Gallagher never saw him again until a Division reunion in Lake Placid in 1980.) He spent two weeks in a field hospital and returned to the front. He said he asked how he was to get back to his outfit and was told, "The best way you can." He eventually got a ride back with a quartermaster outfit delivering supplies to his company.
He was suffering some hearing loss from the noise of his own machine gun, he said, and then he was nearby when a group of 4.2 mortars opened a barrage and he went almost completely deaf. Sgt. Gallagher was a squad leader, and when his senior officer realized his hearing problem, he was taken out of combat.
Home in 1946
He returned on a Liberty Ship in April 1946 to Fort Dix, N.J. and then was transferred to Borden Hospital for the hearing impaired in Chickasha, Okla. He eventually returned to Princeton, where he graduated in 1948, and then went on to Columbia for his master's degree.
He was a 6-foot 2-inch, 188-pound left end at- Princeton, where he also played baseball for a year. He later tried out for the New York Yankees football team of the All-America Conference when Tom Landry was there trying out as a defensive back. Bill adds, "I didn't make it."
Saranac Lake, 1953
He coached and taught at a private school and a public high school before being accepted as the physical education director at Saranac Lake High School in 1953. He became a respected coach and teacher of history during his 35-year teaching career.
An Enterprise clipping from October 1954, with a picture of Gallagher applauding his team from the sidelines, reads:
"It was third down and less than two ' minutes left to play on Saranac Lake's Municipal Field (the field was then owned by the village) Saturday afternoon. Dan Carlin centered the ball to halfback Bob Dukett who headed around right end. Then Captain Mickey Blair threw a beautiful block into the Ogdensburg defensive halfback, enabling Dukett to score Saranac Lake's final touchdown. Final score Saranac Lake 1 3, Ogdensburg 7 "
A big family
Bill organized and instituted a mentoring project at the Saranac Lake Elementary School. He served as Harrietstown town councilman for six years and eight years as town supervisor. I was privileged to serve with him on the village board when he was a trustee. (More than 2,000 people voted in the village election when we won in 1966.)
Tommie Gallagher trained in classical piano at Julliard after graduating from the prestigious Academy of the Holy Name in Albany. She is a prominent figure on the musical scene in Saranac Lake.
The Gallaghers live at 83 Park Avenue, where they raised their seven children: William "Chip," Gail, Jill, Ann, Kevin, Bob and Beth.
2012-12-12 11:21:38 Marvelous story. What a journey Bill Gallagher had! He was so inspiring. It's wonderful to find this site and Howard Riley's wonderful writing about a wonderful man. —18.104.22.168