Day the music dies

NICK FISHER, Executive Editor

Ed Gallagher Jr., known as an attorney, philanthropist and most notably as a purveyor of the fine arts on UNI’s campus, passed away April 5 at the age of 89.

According to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, Gallagher had suffered a fall and had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

Gallagher and his wife, Cathy, along with Carl and Peggy Bluedorn, donated a naming gift to the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center in the spring of 1999. The center cost $23 million to construct, according to the GBPAC website, and was funded 50/50 by state and private funds (with approximately 1,400 private donors across Iowa).

His death occurred one day shy of the 15th anniversary of the GBPAC’s official opening in 2000. 

“I think most people will tell you that what they like most about him is that he was a doer. The giving was part of it, but really what he did — I think — is he challenged you to go further … And not always comfortably! But always, always, always valuably,” said Steve Carignan, executive director for the GBPAC.

Carignan knew Gallagher both professionally, through the GBPAC, and personally, as a friend. They would often converse while walking their dogs.

Carignan said that Gallagher had always had an intense passion for music, and was musically talented himself.

Gallagher, a member of the U.S. Navy in WWII, served on a destroyer as a lookout. As a form of entertainment, the other crew members on lookout would ask him to sing to them through communication tubes, known as voice pipes, because he had such a lovely Irish tenor voice, Carignan said.

 He was also an ardent supporter of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra, which, some have said, sparked his interest in the possibility of a performing arts center for the Cedar Valley in the first place. He wanted to find a home for the local symphony that, for many years, had been performing at West High School or the old Young Arena in Waterloo — in addition to other motivations.

 Gallagher and his family frequented the Symphony’s performances at the GBPAC, and one could often find the Gallagher family in the stage right, Mezzanine-level box.

 Jason Weinberger, director of the WCF Symphony, said that Gallagher was particularly fond of piano music and was adamant about the orchestra performing Rachminov piano concertos — very famous piano pieces. He would often ask the director to play one of the pieces and was elated when the Symphony obliged his request a couple of years ago.

 “That was special for me as a musician, and as a friend of his and a colleague of his, to be able see to his musical passion where maybe a lot of other people saw him as a lawyer or a philanthropist or a community guy. It was just great to see that sort of inner musical joy come out whenever we talked about that stuff,” Weinberger said.

 The WCF Symphony remembered Gallagher and others close to the orchestra at a GBPAC performance on Saturday. They played Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” as a remembrance piece.

 Perhaps Gallagher is best remembered at UNI for his donation of approximately $1 million (according to the Rod Library’s website) to the construction of the GBPAC. However, in addition to that, he also funded a professorship on campus, according to the Courier, and donated $500,000 to the Mcleod Center, according to the Rod Library’s website.

“I think in a way, their [Ed and Cathy’s] example, you know, for their family and for others; that’s really probably the most important contribution that they made, rather than any specific monetary or civic project that they were working on,” Weinberger said.

 “He was a member of that Greatest Generation. And as we lose those folks, we need to take a moment and look into ourselves, and maybe find a little bit of what they had in us. Because we’re going to carry on that world that they helped build,” Carignan said. “And while they weren’t perfect, they certainly created the place we live in. And we have a responsibility to create a place for the next generation.”