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Point Reyes Light
December 26, 2002

Ex-postmaster Gallagher of Pt. Reyes dies
By Larken Bradley

Former Point Reyes Station postmaster George M. Gallagher, a member of one of West Marinís prominent Irish immigrant families, died Friday, Dec. 20 of natural causes less than three months after the death of his identical twin, rancher Robert Gallagher. He was 89.

Until his retirement in 1983 at age 70, Mr. Gallagher as a rural postmaster was virtually the town mayor. Since most Point Reyes Station and Inverness Park residents lack home delivery, townspeople saw him daily for 32 years as they picked up their mail.

Always eager to reminisce about the good old days, Mr. Gallagher enjoyed talking about the narrow-gauge railway, which ran through the familyís 330-acre North Bend Ranch northeast of Point Reyes Station, where he and his twin were born. The North Bend Ranch was one of three ranches owned by their Irish immigrant grandparents.

One of his most vivid memories was of the trainís whistle blowing to announce the end of World War I, when he was only five years old, his son Paul Gallagher recalled this week.

Flagging down the train

The narrow-gauge began service in 1875; the tracks east of Point Reyes Station were converted to standard gauge in 1920; but the rail line finally shut down in 1933.

As youngsters, when the twins flagged the train down for a ride, conductors often teased them by chiming, "Ike and Mike, they look alike," Mr. Gallagher laughed in a 1993 interview with The Light.

Born 20 minutes after his brother on July 2, 1913, Mr. Gallagher was plagued by illness as he grew up. He and his sister Mary Gallagher, who died of a stroke at 19, contracted tuberculosis and were confined in an East Marin sanitarium for more than a year. Occasionally waking to find that a hospital roommate had succumbed overnight, instilled in him "an appreciation for life," his son recalled.

Injured in baseball

This appreciation did not diminish when he was hit in the head by a baseball at Tomales High, fracturing his skull and leaving him with a continual ringing in his ear.

After graduating from Tomales High, Mr. Gallagher worked on the family ranch, raising poultry and vegetables. He later moved to San Francisco, where he became a journeyman machinist with the American Can Company.

During World War II he was drafted into the Army and stationed in England. After contracting pneumonia overseas, he was given an honorable discharge, avoiding the fate of many soldiers in his unit who were killed when sent to the front. His oldest brother Jack Gallagher was one of the first West Marin boys killed serving in World War II. Mr. Gallagher then returned to the family ranch, where he resumed operating the dairy with his brother.

In the early 1950s, when Point Reyes Stationís postmaster announced her retirement, Mr. Gallagherís brother-in-law, a postal worker in the East Bay, encouraged him to apply for the position.

The postal workerís wife, Mr. Gallagherís sister Katherine Federspiel, on Saturday told The Light, "My husband said, ĎGeorge you ought to apply . . . . Youíre a disabled veteran, a Democrat, and all the right things.í"

After passing the civil service examination, Mr. Gallagher was appointed Point Reyes Stationís postmaster by President Harry S. Truman. "George was a wonderful boss," reported former Point Reyes Station Postmaster Rosie Lucchesi, who succeeded him after he retired and worked with him for 22 years. "He was very patient.... He taught me everything [about the postoffice] I know."

As supervisor of an all-woman staff, Mr. Gallagher deflected any praise or commendations he received on to his employees by saying, "My girls did it.... My ladies did it," Lucchesi recalled.

Former Inverness Postmaster Theressa Bryant on Monday said, "He taught me how to teach myself about the postoffice."

On Sept. 12, 1953, the same day John F. Kennedy married Jacqueline Bouvier, Mr. Gallagher took Helen McMenamin as his bride. A native Canadian, the new Mrs. Gallagher was the sister of Dorothy McMenamin Gallagher, the wife of his brother Robert.

George and Helen Gallagher, each a twin who married a twin, eventually became grandparents of twins.

Close to twin

Mr. Gallagherís relationship with his own twin Bob was extremely close, he told The Light on Sept. 24, the day his brother died. "When Rob was gone, he was lost," his sister said. Indeed, a broken heart may have contributed to his rapid decline in the last week, family members suggested.

Painfully shy as young men and dressed in identical clothes, the twins escorted their sisters to Saturday night dances at the Grandi Hall but rooted themselves firmly as wallflowers, seldom daring to invite a girl to step onto the floor, Katherine Federspiel recalled.

Still soft-spoken and bashful as a grown man, Mr. Gallagherís position as postmaster helped draw him out of his shell, friends noted. "He was real good with people," his son observed.

Mr. Gallagher once made a cameo appearance in one of the award-winning Bartles and James wine cooler commercials, playing a mailman who made a delivery as two codgers reminisced from a porch swing.

Often seen wearing a trademark Rex Harrison-style Irish gentlemanís hat, few people knew of Mr. Gallagherís appreciation for classical music, his sister revealed. His interest in the fine arts may have been inherited from his father, William Gallagher, who began art school in San Francisco at age 50, and produced many pen-and-ink drawings.

A great hiker, into his mid-80s Mr. Gallagher still enjoyed trekking eight miles roundtrip on the Bear Valley trail to Arch Rock.

Gus Padula of Inverness Park recalled weekly Sunday evening card games with Mr. Gallagher and Willie Reinhardt. The three men enjoyed a regular ritual of dinner at the Farmhouse in Olema followed by a game of "31."

Religious man

Describing Mr. Gallagher as "quite a religious person," Mr. Padula found it moving, while on a Mexican cruise with his friend one year that Mr. Gallagher knelt to say his prayers before bunking down for the night.

Mr. Gallagher was a member of Sacred Heart Catholic Church; Nicasio Parlor No. 183 N.S.G.W.; and the Nicasio Druids.

He was predeceased by his wife, Helen Gallagher; brothers, Jack Gallagher; William "Billy" Gallagher; William Leonard Gallagher, Jr.; Robert Gallagher; and his sister, Mary Gallagher.

Mr. Gallagher is survived by his sons and daughters-in-law, Kevin and Katie Gallagher; and Paul and Deanna Gallagher, all of Point Reyes Station; sisters, Eileen Gollan of Cloverdale; and Katherine Federspiel of Berkeley; sister-in-law, Nadine Gallagher of Oregon; and his grandchildren, Sean, Emily, and Colin Gallagher, all of Point Reyes Station.

Interment was at Olema Cemetery.

The family has suggested that any memorial contributions be made to Helping Hands, c/o Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 10189 State Route 1, Olema, 94950; or to West Marin Senior Services, 11431 State Route 1, Point Reyes Station, 94956.

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