Jim Gallagher, a former science teacher at the Franklin Institute, died Nov. 15 of a respiratory attack. He was 72.
For years, Gallagher entertained and educated school children during field trips, serving nearly 25 years at the Institute. A native of Wilkes-Barre, Gallagher earned his bachelor’s at Bloomsburg University and went on to attain his master’s from the University of Pennsylvania. Gallagher began his teaching career with the Philadelphia public-school system in 1966 and was placed at the Franklin Institute 10 years later. He retired from the position in 2000, after a career in which he amassed a number of city and state teaching awards, including being named the Philadelphia School District Teacher of the Year in 1990. Gallagher was an active member of Silver Foxes, an older-adult group that meets at William Way LGBT Community Center. He lived in the Washington Square West section of Philadelphia for more than 40 years. Michael Pollock, a longtime friend of Gallagher’s, said Gallagher was one of the very first people he met when he moved to Center City. Pollock said Gallagher was known for his amicable personality. “He never had a car and always walked around Center City. He had a very outgoing personality and would greet people he knew and didn’t know,” Pollock said. “If he walked the same route every day and passed the same people, he would get friendly with them.” John J. Gamel knew Gallagher for 35 years through his work as a volunteer guide for the Franklin Institute. Gamel said Gallagher was a remarkable teacher who would go out of his way for the sake of learning. “Jim was always willing to help the student interested in science,” he said. Pollock described Gallagher as one of the local LGBT community’s earliest pioneers. He supported the William Way LGBT Community Center since its inception and was a longtime figure at Pride events and community fundraisers. Gallagher was also an avid antiques collector and enjoyed both buying and selling. Pollock said Gallagher was the type of person who cared about others and always wanted people to feel included. “He gave a holiday dinner and he would tell the people he invited to bring those they knew would be alone during the holidays,” Pollock said. “He wouldn’t even know these people and yet he would invite them inside his home. He would have a meal at his house and always decorated it so incredibly.” He was also someone who could engage a crowd no matter where he went, Pollock added. “He was somebody you’d want to be friends with. He knew so many people, you could network with just the people he knew. I always noticed him in the bars talking to people and holding court, with a crowd around him.” Gallagher is survived by his brother Thomas, sister Molly, nephew Raymond and many friends. A memorial service is planned for noon Dec. 10 at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 20th and Christian streets.