Bill Gallo died on May 10. The legendary New York Daily News sports cartoonist and columnist was 88 years old and had worked at the paper for nearly 70 years. Gallo started as a copy boy at age 18, left briefly to fight in World War II, and returned to the Daily News where he worked up until his death. He was described as a loving husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and a proud member of the U.S. Marine Corps, 4th Marine Division.
Bill Gallo is mourned by millions of New York sports fans…indeed anyone who followed New York sports teams naturally followed Bill Gallo. I remember my father Ed, in the ’50s and ’60s, commuting on the LIRR from our home in Wantagh to his job at Texaco in the city, reading the Daily News, back to front, for the sports. In the ’70s and early ’80s, I followed sports myself. I worked for a decade at Sports Illustrated, a dream job that allowed me, among other things, to collect autographed covers or photos, which I would proudly share with my father and my younger brother Mitch: Muhammad Ali, Pelé, Thurman Munson, Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Jimmy Connors and Mitch’s all-time favorites, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue covergirls Christie Brinkley and Cheryl Tiegs.
But the autograph our family prized above all others belonged to sports cartoonist extraordinaire Bill Gallo. I met him on February 25, 1985, on a bitter cold Monday in Manhattan. Early that morning my dad called me at my office asking, “Do you have the Sunday News?” I didn’t. But I ran to the newsstand on the corner and they still had a copy. It seemed that Bill Gallo had written a story on the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, and in that story he ran a photo from his personal collection of his 4th Marine Division buddies on a troopship bound for Iwo in 1945. And there was my dad, at age 19, in the upper left-hand corner of the photo. Gallo was kneeling, far right, in the front row.
I wasted no time. I ran across town to the Daily News building on 42nd Street between Second and Third and announced myself to the receptionist. I told her of my mission and Bill Gallo said, “send her right up.” And there, in his office, I pointed to Ed in the photo asking if the cartoonist remembered him and would he autograph the page with a message to my dad. He was very gracious about it, and chatted with me for a long while. I told him my dad hardly ever talked about the war and that I had learned more from this article than I had previously known about his service. Like the fact that they spent 45 days on Iwo Jima, fighting to win it back “inch by inch.”
That night I met my dad for a drink and presented him the signed newspaper, but not before I photocopied it five times for other members of the family who like me would treasure the trophy. My dad was thrilled. Up until then he had no idea the famous Bill Gallo was in his division, just as Bill Gallo had not actually remembered Ed. But that wasn’t the point. They had shared the experience that no one who had been through that war could forget. (My dad in fact remembered things differently; the troopship wasn’t Iwo-bound, it was returning home. That would account for the relaxed and smiling demeanor of the young men in the photo.)
Years passed and the photocopies were framed and hung with pride of place in various rooms throughout the family: my parents’ den, my brother’s office in Houston (he was now a senior attorney with Texaco), my sister’s house in Massapequa, my apartment in New York and later our home in Naples.
And then in 2006, an amazing thing happened. The Daily News ran the photo again shortly after the 60th anniversary of Iwo Jima! Gallo was still at his desk, but my dad was now gone. He died of emphysema-like Gallo would-in 1991. Ed was a smoker even before the Marines sent cartons of Camels to our troops during wartime. Indeed my first memory of him is with a pack of Camels rolled up in his white shirtsleeve, so handsome, so young.
Anyway, my nephew Paul Dulanto was commuting to his job and reading the Daily News-back to front for the sports-just like his grandfather (to whom he bears a striking resemblance). And there was the photo of my dad, Paul’s grandfather, staring out at him, the same one that had been hanging in his family den since he could remember. My sister called me in Florida to tell me about it. Ed’s photo with Bill Gallo lives on!
I hope the Daily News runs this photo every year on the anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, or at least every 10 years or so, in fitting memory of Bill Gallo and other veterans like my dad. There aren’t too many of them around anymore, these guys of The Greatest Generation. But it’s important to my family’s story and I would guess it’s central to the Gallo family story too.
In fact, I would wager that they played the Marine Corps Hymn at Bill Gallo’s funeral just as they did at my father’s. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
Semper Fi, Mr. Gallo. Miss you daddy.