2017-11-08 / Obituaries

Former Margaretville resident remembered by colleagues

William C. Gallo, who was raised in Margaretville and began a journalism career at the Catskill Mountain News, died in Colorado last month after a lengthy illness. His obituary in the Denver Post was a testament to an incredible talent and a life well lived. For those who may remember Gallo and his family, we are reprinting, in part, the obituary his colleagues created.

William C. Gallo

By Ernie Tucker,
Special to The Denver Post

William C. Gallo, erudite scribe whose words dazzled Denver, Colorado for decades, died on October 14, 2017 at the Denver Hospice after a battle with bone cancer. He was 72. Bill began his journalism career writing for the Catskill Mountain News as a summer intern between his freshman and sophomore years at Northwestern University.

Gallo was old school and New Journalism, a two-finger typist pounding away furiously at a keyboard.-

It should come as no surprise that Bill Gallo wrote award-winning poetry while studying journalism at Northwestern University. The Margaretville, New York native was merely warming up in the bullpen. He later graced the pages of Denver’s newspapers for more than three decades with a style probably not seen in Colorado since Damon Runyon’s heyday in the early 1900s.

On a daily basis, he could give tutorials to readers on topics ranging from baseball and the demimonde to jazz — inserting images that seared into readers’ minds. His writing elevated Denver and its culture to the sheen of Manhattan, often infused with a sly wink. In 1970, chronicling the funeral of a gypsy queen for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote, “Katherine went to her rest with a spinach garden of dollars laying across her bodice and twined through her waxen fingers (‘traveling money’ one family member said.).”

Later, as a staff writer at Westword, a Denver alternative weekly newspaper, he wrote, “Dianne Reeves is an international siren who combines Sarah Vaughan’s harmonic rigor, Ella Fitzgerald’s tireless energy and Carmen McRae’s art with lyrics.”

He did a stint as a sports writer at The Denver Post, and his expertise in the field was recognized nationally. Under the Sports Illustrated byline of William Gallo — possibly to avoid confusion with a New York cartoonist S. Bill Gallo — he described the Masters in these terms: “In the weeks leading up to this year’s Masters, all Augusta had a case of the yips.”

Gallo arrived in Denver, after attending Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and earning a master’s degree in creative writing at Columbia University. Profiling Denver crime figure Checkers Smaldone, he wrote of the semi-tragic figure that “through the afternoon, he’d been receiving, amid a thick cloud emanating from his huge Nicaraguan Emperador, a succession of longterm friends.”

As Andy Van De Voorde, executive associate editor at Voice Media Group and a onetime editor of Gallo, noted “He taught me and my son [who went on to become a jockey] a lot about horse racing at Arapahoe Park. We learned about ‘bridge-jumping’ (when people bet so much on a heavy favorite that, if the horse finishes out of the money, they have no recourse but to go jump off a bridge) and heard many great tales about the track at Saratoga Springs, where, Bill recounted, he once saw his distant relative, the mobster Joe ‘Crazy Joe’ Gallo surrounded by a group of congenial henchmen, one of whom came over to offer ‘Mr. Gallo’s regards.’ ”

Gallo, who could scour a racing form with the precision of an Egyptologist reading hieroglyphics, would tick off a likely winner–and chuckle “I’ll put $10 on his nose, and hope he doesn’t develop sinusitis.” He didn’t keep those bon mots to himself. As a Rocky columnist, he reimagined a routine item about a squad car stuck on a snowdrift in the memorable description that “the boys in blue had gotten high-ended on an ice cube.”

Veteran Denver Post writer Kevin Simpson said, “For my money, Bill was the best writer around on a multitude of subjects, though I always favored his movie reviews both for their insight and entertainment value.” John Baron, a former Rocky city editor and founding principal of GBSM, Inc., agreed. “Bill was an enormously talented feature writer and the best film critic I’ve ever read. His eye for character, color, detail and wit combined with his mastery of language was a beautiful thing to behold. Simply put, he was the best writer either newspaper has produced in the past 40 years and his writing brought great insight and joy to millions of readers.”

Added Rob Reuteman, another Rocky city editor who marveled at his eloquence, “Whenever we needed a major profile of some new heavyweight, some reigning tyrant, deposed gangster or old lion in winter, we’d simply assign it to Bill and start worrying about something else.”

Ron Henderson, co-founder of the Denver Film Society who became a close friend of Gallo’s after meeting him in 1978 shortly after the Denver Film Festival began, said, “Bill was the gifted film critic for the Rocky Mountain News. For the next three-plus decades he would be an eloquent and perceptive voice. He will be missed.”

While skeptical of institutions, he never grew worldweary. Instead, he dove into life with cherished friends — playing tennis, going to jazz clubs, movies, bars, and restaurants with his long-time companion, Marilyn Saint-Veltri, and passionately following his beloved “Metsies” (with a particular fondness for New York Mets’ stalwart Mookie Wilson—“the Mookster” in Gallo’s parlance).

Gallo is survived by a son, Billy, and a daughter, Holly Lignelli, as well as two granddaughters, Amelia and Maggie, and his mother, Blanche Guinan. He was preceded in death by his father, Dr. William C. Gallo, and a brother, Daniel.

Donations in his honor may be made to the Karis Community, 1361 Detroit St, Denver, CO 80206.

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