Richard J. Gallagher

Dick Gallagher, 79, high school football devotee who fought against addiction among young people

Jan. 21, 1941 – June 22, 2020

At the age of 79, Richard Gallagher, of Williamsville, New York entered into rest on June 22, 2020. Beloved husband of Ann Gallagher (McMahon). Father of Michael Gallagher (Patricia), Christine Gallagher (Deceased), Richard Gallagher (Meghan).

Grandfather of Dillon, Morgan, Austin, Liam, Mary Claire, Maeve, and Mia. Loving son of the late John and Julia Gallagher; Dear brother of Robert Gallagher (Kathleen). Also survived by a loving nephew, nieces, and many friends.

Many Western New Yorkers recognize and know Dick Gallagher.

Dick dedicated his 42-year professional career to the addiction treatment field, having served as the executive director of Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services, and its foundation, until his retirement in 2010. Gallagher was co-founder of Kids Escaping Drugs (KED) and under his leadership Renaissance House, a teen treatment facility located in West Seneca, was established in 1990. Just as much as he lived to help with treatment, the joy that he found was truly in witnessing the recovery. For Dick, being a part of helping someone change their life was a gift that never went unappreciated.

Just as Gallagher dedicated the better portion of his professional life to helping young people, he dedicated his second career to his appreciation for the role of athletics in positively influencing youths. For everyone who knew Dick, his work with Western New York High School Sports was his passion. With his persistence, drive, and commitment, WNY High School Sports grew into more than just a sports paper, becoming a movement to honor the accomplishments – both in competition and in the classroom – of athletes in football, baseball, softball, and basketball. In 1987, the All-Academic Sports Banquet was organized, and remains a fixture to this day, honoring hundreds of athletes each year.

While the publication of the paper ceased in 2010, his fixture in the community kept growing. He remained an active contributor to WGRZ-TV’s high school sports coverage, worked with WNYAthletics.com, and loved his weekly “Friday Night Lights” segment, during football season, on KISS 98.5.

As a man who was passionate about supporting and highlighting the successes of others, he didn’t often discuss the success of his own. Over the course of both careers, Gallagher received several awards. In 2003, he was inducted into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He is a member of the Section VI Hall of Fame, the Prep Talk Hall of Fame and the Lackawanna Wall of Fame. Last summer, he was named the first winner of the Dick Gallagher Legacy Award at the annual Kensington Lions All-Star football game. In 1996 he ran with the Olympic Torch for the Atlanta hosted Olympic Games.

To Western New York, Dick is known as “The Godfather.”

To his family he is Dad, Grandpa/Bumpa, Brother, Uncle, and so much more.

Gallagher, born in the Bronx, moved several times for his father’s job as an executive with the Veterans Administration. Dick spent his early school years in Boston where his love for the Red Sox came to life, culminating with him touching home plate at Fenway Park (a story that Dick was proud to tell, but could never be verified by family sources). For anyone who saw Dick on the sideline of a game, or anywhere really, there was a strong likelihood that he would be wearing a Red Sox windbreaker or ball cap. Or just about any sports apparel he could get his hands on.

Gallagher spent his high school years in Bath, NY where he played tailback and shortstop. Rumor has it he even went to class, excelling in gym and lunch! He graduated from Haverling High School, having been voted “Biggest Flirt” his senior year. After high school, he ventured to Wilkes-Barre, PA where he roomed with his twin brother at King’s College before graduating in 1964. He earned his master’s degree in social work at the University at Buffalo in 1969.

Dick had a generous spirit and strong sense of humor. When his youngest son came home with a pool table and put it in the living room, Dick picked up a pool stick and started playing. He was a cautious driver, leaving those in the car with him wondering if he knew which pedal was actually for the gas and which was the break. When his sons would adjust his steering wheel and seat in the car, so that it would be in a different position each time he got in, he went along with it. And, when he wanted to teach his oldest son, age 12 at the time, to box, he was only angry for a few minutes when his dentures were accidently knocked out.

Most importantly, he was a proud grandparent, relentless supporter and constant figure at every single game that his grandkids played in, no matter what sport it was or how far away they were. Just as he was supportive, he was competitive, never backing away from a challenge. His favorite was the classic game of PIG, which always ended with either the grandkids needing a slice of humble pie after their win or a boost in his self-esteem when he won (his grandkids will tell you he probably cheated, which his sons would confirm, but he would deny).

His love for games was highlighted each year on vacation in Cape Cod when he would spend hours at the arcade, and at Old Homes Days when he would play every game …twice.

In school, when his grandkids had to write about their hero, it was always Grandpa/Bumpa who was the star. His perseverance and passion are character traits that the grandkids all strive to emulate. Conversations with him were reminders that life isn’t about what is happening to you, it is about your attitude towards life, because ATTITUDE = 100 (google it). He had his “dick”-tionary of quotes, frequently reminding everyone that “it is what it is.” The glass is always half-full. You can make a difference. And, always look for the good in people.

Dick Gallagher had a love for his family and his community, one that will be missed immensely. You cannot replace a man like Dick, but we can all strive to be a bit more like him.

As always, we remember that “every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet”.

No prior visitation. Friends are invited to attend a Mass of Christian Burial Monday morning at 11:30 in St. Amelia RC Church, Tonawanda. Please assemble at church. Masks are required. Live Streaming of the Mass is available at stamelia.com under the Watch Live tab. Flowers gratefully declined. Memorials may be made to Kids Escaping Drugs, 920 Harlem Rd., West Seneca 14224.