On Sunday, October 25th, at 3:30 p.m., Bob Gallagher, 73, died from glioblastoma, after a short but fierce battle with that terrible disease. Bob was diagnosed on October 6th after surgery to remove the tumor, but the cancer was extremely aggressive, and despite the best efforts and incredible care by the doctors and surgeons at Hartford Hospital, there was little they could do. He passed quietly, calmly and pain-free in the hospice unit of the hospital. He will be missed terribly.
Bob was born on July 21, 1947, in the Bronx, in the great city of New York, to Loretta "Gaga" Gallagher and Edward Gallagher. He is survived by his sons, Chris, Mark and Michael Gallagher; Chris's wife, Lani, and their son, Zephyr; Mark's wife, Melissa, and their children, Oren and Noa; and Michael's son, Kingsley. His wife of 48 years, Eleanor Gallagher née McGrath, passed away in 2017
As an only child, he had no siblings, but Eleanor's siblings became his own, and with great love he is survived by Eleanor's sister, Cathy Antoncich, and her husband, Kenny; their children, Megan and Caitlin Vitti; Caitlin's husband, George; grandnieces Alexa and Naya; and Eleanor's brother, James A. McGrath, Jr., and his wife, Denise. Bob will be lovingly remembered by his cousins and lifelong friends Judi and Rich Hanratty Sr.; Kara and Doug Mignosa and their children, Quinn and Ryan; Richard Hanratty Jr. and his wife, Kate, and their children, Luke and Grace; his cousins-by-marriage, the Connells; devoted friends Kevin and Kate Meara and their children, Maureen and Michael; Carol Taylor and her husband, Hal, and their children, Britany and Zach; neighbors and friends the Burgios and Howdens; his dear friends and colleagues from Duffy Elementary School of the West Hartford Public School system, and many other family and friends. He was loved by so many, and he loved so many people in return.
Bob graduated from Iona College in 1969 with a Bachelor's degree in Theology, and then later in life returned to school for his Masters of Education from Central Connecticut State University. He and Eleanor met at a dance at Community Gardens, Queens in June of 1966 and quickly grew very close. They were married on Aug. 16, 1969, but not at Woodstock as the date would imply. Eleanor's sister, Cathy, did have a ride to that festival, but not a ticket-not that it mattered, because she was the maid of honor and could not attend the concert. It appears she has forgiven Bob and El for picking that date, but you'd have to ask her to be sure.
Bob had the joy of raising his three boys while working as a teacher, first at St. Paul's High School in Bristol, CT, and then at Duffy Elementary School in West Hartford. Teaching was his life's work, and he loved the children in his fourth-grade classes like they were his own. He was awarded Teacher of the Year in 2002, and it was an honor, so well-deserved, that he cherished. He was the chairman of the board for Boy Scout Troop 146, helping to guide his sons to the rank of Eagle Scout and enhancing the lives of all the boys who were part of that troop. After the passing of Eleanor, his best friend and wife, in Nov. 2017, Bob began volunteering as a "cuddler" for newborns in the NICU of Hartford Hospital as a way to channel his grief, and give back to the community by sharing his boundless love and care. There will be a memorial service in July 2021 near his birthday to celebrate Bob's life.
Bob was an amazing man. He cared for Eleanor as she struggled with MS, which she was diagnosed with at age 26, only three years into their marriage. In the final decade of their lives together, that care went beyond love and support to full-time, 24-hour medical care. He was her advocate and champion, and never left her side throughout hospital visits and long-term-care stays. Despite the enormous mental and physical challenges they faced together with that terrible disease, one would often catch them laughing hysterically about something utterly awful or insane. It was that laughter, and their unconditional love for one another, that kept each of them sane through those dark times. Bob was one of the kindest people you could ever meet. He was fiercely intelligent, massively well-read and an incredible speaker. He always fought for what was right, and taught his children to do the same. They learned so much from him, and they miss him deeply. It is their greatest hope that Bob and Eleanor are at peace somewhere, together, taking a long walk, talking and laughing about all they have done together, and the wonderful legacy they have created in their beautiful family and their shared friends.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Glioblastoma Foundation or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Published in Hartford Courant on Nov. 1, 2020.
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