On October 7, 2020, our world lost one of the finest men ever to have walked it. James R (“Jim”) Gallagher was born July 1, 1925, to the late James Aloysius and Mary Vaughn Gallagher in Wheeling West Virginia. His father moved them to Detroit, Michigan to pursue a career at the Western Union.
Jim was thrust into the position as patriarch of the Gallagher family just before Christmas in 1936 when he was only 11 ½ years old. His father had passed away from pneumonia leaving him, his widowed mother and two younger sisters, the youngest of which was only a few months old. It was during the depression. The family moved back to Ironton, and Jim shouldered the mantel of responsibility to help support the family as well as being a father figure for his sisters.
As a teen, he attended St. Joseph High School, where he played sports, formed a band in which he played the piano, and starred in high school theater productions. He also worked three jobs, as a night desk clerk at the Marting Hotel, delivering messages for Western Union and playing the piano live on WIRO radio.
Jim graduated from St. Joe in 1943. In June of 1943, just before his 18th birthday, he boarded a train to Columbus, Ohio to enlist in the Army. WWII was raging and he felt it was his duty to serve. He was a member of the 104th Infantry “Timberwolf” Division where he was assigned to lead a machine gun squadron. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The Timberwolf Division was renowned because they successfully fought, attacked and advanced at night, a feat thought to be impossible. Jim attained the rank of Sergeant, and fought his way from the Ardennes Forest in Belgium, through Holland and deep into Germany, crossing the flooded Roer and the Rhine Rivers. His days in combat were nearly constant until meeting up with Russian troops near the Mulde and Elbe Rivers in Germany in April of 1945. Along the way, his unit helped liberate the poor souls imprisoned in the Dora-Mittelbau Concentration Camp near Nordhausen, Germany. Jim rarely talked about his military service. When asked about it, he would normally just reply that he had done what he had to do.
After returning home to Ironton from the war, Jim attended Marshall University. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a Major in Accounting in only three years. He was one of the founding members who established the Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) fraternity while at Marshall.
Honest to a fault, and with an incredible work ethic, Jim began working at Liberty Federal Savings & Loan in 1952 (now Liberty Bank) where he served as President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board. He ultimately retired as Chairman of the Board at Liberty Bank in 2017 at age 92 after serving the Ironton and Lawrence County community for 65 years. During his tenure, Jim ensured ownership of Liberty bank would remain local, because he felt an obligation to Ironton to have a bank which would understand the needs of the community he loved so well. Jim was active in the community. He was a member of the Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, BPO Elks and the St. Joseph Church men’s choir. He served as Chairman of the United Way. He was one of the founding members of the Ironton Country Club.
Jim met the love of his life, Margaret Lenka (Goydan) Gallagher in 1953. After their first date, he told his family he had met the girl he was going to marry. They married nine months later, on June 21, 1954. Perpetually in love, this year they celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary. They were never apart. Jim died in his sleep, resting in bed with his beloved wife Margie.
Jim was a man of many talents. He had a passion for playing the piano and did so to relax each night before retiring to bed. He was a painter who created dozens of beautiful oil paintings he shared with family and friends. He loved to golf and continued to do so at the Ironton Country Club until he was over 90 years old. He loved to travel near and far with Margie, and he authored journals about his travels that read like a novel. He recently completed researching and writing the family history he shared as well. Until the COVID virus epidemic caused gyms to close in March of this year, Jim and Margie went to work out at the gym in Ironton three days a week to stay fit.
Most of all, the man we knew as “Papa Jim” was our patriarch who guided, loved and enjoyed his family. He instilled a “family first” attitude which continues to live on in his children, grandchildren, great grandchild, nieces and nephews. For forty years, Papa Jim and Grannie Margie hosted an annual family trip to Myrtle Beach. It grew from the nuclear family of six, to over 30 family members attending the last such trip in 2018. The trips helped create and preserve the legacy of the Gallagher family bond.
Papa Jim was a man of great faith. He regularly attended Mass at St. Joseph Church and prayed the rosary nightly, adding names to his prayer list whenever he learned of the need. Throughout his failing health, his unwavering faith never faltered.
Papa Jim is predeceased by his father, James Aloysius Gallagher, mother, Mary (Vaughn) Gallagher, and sister, Natalie (Ed) Sarnecki. Papa Jim is survived by his wife of 66 years, Margie (Goydan) Gallagher, his four children, Mary Beth (Tom) Conkle, Jim (Lisa) Gallagher Jr., Patty (Rob) Harris and Linda (David) Piller. He was the beloved Papa Jim to twelve grandchildren, Jennifer Conkle Bartrim, Jeff Conkle, William (Christina) Conkle, Drew Ramsay, Meghan (Andrew) Wilhelm, James (Kiara) Gallagher III, Rebecca Gallagher, Josh Harris, Jeremy Harris, Jessica Harris, Benjamin Piller, Leah Piller, and one great-grandchild, Sarah Bartrim. He is survived by one sister, Ruth (Al) Abler, his brother in law and sister in law, Bruce and Susie Brown, as well as many nieces and nephews who loved him so much as well.
So it is with great sorrow that we say our earthly goodbyes to our patriarch, Papa Jim, a man of great bravery, humility, honesty, faith, love of family, country, community and the beauty of life itself.
Visitation will be held at O’Keefe Baker Funeral Home located at 1108 S 6th St, Ironton, Ohio on Thursday, October 15th, from 2-4 and from 6-8. Father Huffman will lead a rosary there at 7:45. There will be a Funeral Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ironton, Ohio, on Friday, October 16th at 11:00. We ask that all in attendance at the visitation and the Funeral Mass wear masks and follow social distancing protocols.
The Funeral Mass will be live streamed at the following You Tube link for those who cannot attend and would like to celebrate Dad’s life with us.
In lieu of flowers, we also ask that memorial contributions be made to the Tuition Assistance Fund in honor of Jim and Margie Gallagher at St. Joseph High School, 912 South 6th Street, Ironton, Ohio 45638.
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