People of St. Peter’s

Dave Galleher


Dave and Nancy Galleher

I was born on Dec 25th, 1944 in Norwalk, Conn.  As I was very young at the time, I have little or no memory of the event.  I’m told it was 830 in the morning and I was very little trouble, a situation which I am sure changed in relatively short order.  I grew up in various locations around the eastern portion of the US.  We were nomads as my dad searched for the ‘perfect’ job, a goal he would pursue his entire life.  Finally settled in Hornell, NY at about age six, where I would remain until my graduation from high school in 1963.   Over the years my dad worked in various arenas, auto sales, retail lumber, home and commercial contracting, finally settling into the radio business, first as a salesman of advertising, then as an on air personality (DJ) then as news director and station Manager.  He was and would remain un-churched his entire life.  My mom found work as a secretary/administrative assistant for the local Assembly representative in the state legislature, a profession she would enjoy in various iterations for over thirty years. This career would necessitate her absence from home for three to 5 months of the year (while the legislature was in session) and so, initially, I was at home with my father, while she was away, and quickly learned to be self sufficient, as he was usually working when I got home from school.  I was a Turnkey Kid and didn’t even know it.  At around age 8 or 9, my maternal grandmother retired and came to live with us, which injected another layer of interpersonal tension into the family dynamic.  Until that time, I was for all intents and purposes, unchurched.  My grandmother was Episcopalian and my Mom had been raised in the Episcopal church in Waverly ,NY.  I started attending Christ Church in Hornell, led by one Father John Furlong, a Welsh Canadian from Nova Scotia with the loveliest tenor voice I’d ever heard.  That was the start of my love affair with choral music.  He was a loving, spirit filled man and I still miss him. I came up thru the ranks, altar boy, boy chorister (which was very difficult because I started as a decent boy soprano and as the voice changed, became an unsatisfying boy ‘what on earth is that?’) and so on.  There was no youth group (small parish and not a lot of kids) so I hooked up with MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), which was sort of OK ‘cause some of my friends were there, but even though I was, as yet, theologically unaware, there was no real experiential connection.    My church life was fairly straight forward until my Junior year – Church on Sunday, Acolyte when scheduled, sing when tolerated. Then, toward the summer of my sophomore year, I was informed that there was to be an ‘Episcopal “Camp”’ that summer.  It was to be held at a small liberal arts, Episcopal college an hour north in a town called Geneva. What is a Hobart anyway?  No matter, these were kids like me, ‘Piscopalians, and we would have something in common.  The camp consisted of the usual offerings, swimming in the lake (cold), playing ball on the quad, nite time bull sessions (no campfires allowed), water balloons from the third floor dorms (fun), etc.  There were also short ‘classes’ or workshops where it was possible to learn more about what this whole Anglican Catholic thing was all about.  The camp was ram-rodded by an old priest whose name escapes me, because he was introduced the first day and never referred to by name again.  Each day would begin at the crack of 0’ dark thirty with him walking the halls and between the buildings shouting “Adoremus,  rise and praise God for this glorious day” or something to that effect.  What stuck was the Adoremus and thus the priest was lovingly referred to by all campers before and subsequent to our tenure as “The Old Gray Moose”.  That summer, more than anything that preceded it, gave shape to and defined my identity as a Christian and an Episcopalian.  I loved (and still love) the solemn pageantry of the Eucharist, the simplicity of morning  prayer, the lovely archaic language of the (1928) prayer book and, of course, the music. As far as school goes, I was a somewhat less than exemplary student. We were on “split sessions” while the new High School was being built.  Sophs, Jrs. & Srs. went 0730 – 1200 and 7th, 8th, & 9th grades went 1300 – 1730.  So, what do you do when you have every afternoon off??  Get a job! When I was 16 became an orderly at the local Sisters of Mercy Hospital.  40 Hrs a week, 24 during the week after school and an 8 hr day shift on each of Sat & Sunday. Not conducive to church attendance or high scholastic achievement. Without going into great detail, did well in the sciences, OK in math, but had philosophical differences with some of the ‘humanities’ teachers, who at that time seemed to be coasting on tenure to retirement. That ‘attitude’ prompted my principal to tell me that I would “never graduate from HIS school”, a challenge I couldn’t just let pass. Needless to say, I did, respectably yet not nearly as successfully as I could’ve or should’ve done.  He just looked at the floor and shook his head when I went across stage to receive my (Regents) diploma and regents Scholarship Certificate.


Toward the end of my Junior  year In high school, I enlisted in the Naval Reserve. (My dad was in the Army  {Patton’s Third}, but I was a Navy guy from as far back as I can remember).  Went off to boot camp during summer vaca & then Hospital Corps School after graduation.  I knew at an early age that I wanted to do some thing in medicine. After brief assignments in a number of duty stations, I was assigned to the Naval Hospital on Guam for two years of tropical ‘Paradise’!  The first 6-8 months were, except for the heat, humidity, typhoons, and teenage gangs, mostly idyllic. Off hours were filled with surfing, shelling, diving, exploring the WW II rusted out tanks & Japanese gun emplacements, playing and teaching tennis.   About ¾ of the way into the first year, we started to receive air evacuations from Viet Nam.  In the span of about 2 wks our patient census went from about 80 – 90 adults and 8 – 12 babies per day to 450+ adults per day, most of whom were war damaged, with no increase in staff to be had for about 4 months (mercifully, there was no such increase in infants). It was intense.  12 – 14 hrs on + your normal watch schedule.  On top, every third day each duty section had to be available during all the off hours to go to Anderson AFB to off load new patients from the arriving C-147’s, and sort, manifest and load those patients from our hospital who were being sent on to other facilities. War is hell but at least no-one was shooting at us.  It appeared the party was over.  Finally we got some more help, but the balance of the tour was still stressful and heartbreaking as we saw so many of our troops being returned to us with the awful physical and emotional injuries only those fighting a war experience. It did not leave a lot of time for church (the chaplain was a nice guy, but kind of “one denomination fits none”).  Went a few times, but did not feel it was a particularly ‘worshipful’ experience.  On returning to civilian life, I had to pick up my interrupted life.  Got a job as an orderly at Robert Packer Hosp/Guthrie clinic in Sayre, PA., applied to the Radiologic Technology program at the hospital and after the intercession of some influential friends, was admitted on probation.  (I said I graduated, but it was nowhere near the top of my class.) I did, however, have excellent  scholastic and promotional exam record in the Navy. Two significant things happened as a result of attending that program.  1. I graduated #1 in my class.  2.  I met my wife in that class & we were married (in the Episcopal Church across the street) on graduation day.

Off to a little town at the head of Seneca Lake called Geneva. (I remember that!) I was interviewed and offered a position @ GGH and had to promise to stay 2 years.  Figured we could save up enough in two years to move to the coast, where we really wanted to go.  48 years, two kids, three apartments and a house later, we’re probably not movin’ to the coast.  Kids came along and it was time to put on our adult panties and boxers and provide some sort of meaningful spiritual life for the little nippers. So it was off to St Peter’s where we were adopted by K & J Perry who subsequently became Godparents to Bethany.  I kind of went through the learning process once again as Nancy was not Episcopalian.  She liked it, was received and we had ourselves a church home. The early couple of years were “hour on Sunday” sorts of affairs.  We went because we should & for the kid’s sake


After a while, I became involved in choir and we became more spiritually invested in the church.  I became licensed as a chalice bearer, was elected to the vestry for the first of many times. Between the mid 70’s and the early 80’s we went on two Marriage Encounters (one Roman Catholic & one Episcopal) and a Cursillo weekend.  These were like spiritual transfusions, life and attitude altering.  We became involved in a local CORE group of couples who had been on one or more marriage encounters.  We met once a week and engaged in dialogues revolving around faith in practice as it relates to family, spousal relationships and where the spirit was leading us.  These people, from a diversity of faith traditions, became our closest friends.  We shared everything, pain, joy, frustration, triumphs & setbacks, hopes & fears. It was without a doubt the most spirit filled Christian community we had ever been part of.  But, people moved away, became diverted by career or circumstance and weekly meeting, after a while became untenable. We are still close with all of these people and still get together whenever possible for whatever reason.  The ensuing years have been filled with an increasing appreciation of how the spirit does indeed guide, protect, buoy up, and rescue us.


I have taken on other tasks & duties (Neighbors Nite, Stewardship committee and writing articles for the parish newsletter, Opening Our Gifts Workship) as time has allowed, and have found them all to be opportunities to learn and sometimes be amazed at the working of the spirit in people and events around me.  Upon retirement, in an attempt to forestall the cerebral atrophy which can accompany too much free time and lack of those challenges which arise in ones career or profession, I enrolled in EfM (Education For Ministry) and have subsequently gained tremendous insight into how little I really know about my faith, this thing called Christianity and what I am supposed to do with all that. It has been enlightening, challenging and fun.  My tenure at the Diocesan level on the Commission on Ministry has given me a renewed appreciation of the diversity of gifts and the broad spectrum of opportunities for ministry.  I expect the future will bring more opportunities to grow and many more pathways to explore.


So. . . .Who is the Me that I have become?  I’m not really sure!  A seeker and a pilgrim on the road to faith and understanding, yet firm in the belief that even at this somewhat advanced age, God is still not finished with me.