Hugh Daniel Gallager, 75, of Hellertown was born in 1943 to Robert Joseph Gallagher (1921-1995) and Helen M Zabawa (1923-2012). Hugh was of Irish, Polish and Slovak ancestry. He was the fourth generation of Gallaghers to live in the South Bethlehem area since the arrival of his great-grandfather, Hugh Gallagher, Jr. (1865-1901) from Ireland in 1887. His great-grandmother, Mary Gallagher (1865-1933), was from county Donegal in Ireland. Hugh graduated from Liberty High School in Bethlehem in 1961. He worked for 30 years at Bethlehem Steel, then after the company closed he worked briefly as an import/export inspector and then, about 20 years ago, he developed a highly successful business as a buyer of textbooks from college professors, always paying more in cash than any of his competitors, which made him more popular than Santa Claus in colleges and universities in the Lehigh Valley and Kutztown areas.
Hugh was a larger than life figure. He was a force of nature. Always smiling, always finding a way to cut a deal or turn a buck, always getting out of any tight spot in life with a flourish that would rival Houdini in sheer brilliance and cunning, always willing to share with anyone his sage advice and to help them out of their own tight spots, he was – and is -- a beloved figure to hundreds of people. He loved the ladies and the ladies loved him. He was an accomplished musician, playing the keyboards and singing in rock, jazz, funk and country bands from the early 1960s until he finally decided to retire just a few years ago. For decades he was the Sunday organist at the Open Bible Church in Easton, PA, as well as churches in Philadelphia. His favorite song to play, which he requested to hear in the week before his passing, was “Jesus Dropped the Charges.” After a rather Dionysian start to his life, all of us who have known him hope the title of this song is true for his case too. Hugh was proud of the fact that June 2018 was the 40th anniversary of his sobriety. His spirituality was centered on playing music and on The Serenity Prayer, which he taught to others as a tool to help them out of any kind of tough time in their lives. “Say your Serenity Prayer!” he would admonish them in a gruff, commanding voice. He was a wise man regarding life and the many sides of human nature, both light and dark. At times, when giving advice, “H” could be mistaken for an ancient Greek or Roman Stoic philosopher.
His dear wife Charlotte (Brink), died at the age of 70 in February 2018. Hugh and Charlotte were devoted members of the Allentown Hobo “Almost” Marching Band and would dress like bums and play silly instruments while marching in parades for local charities. He is survived by his son Michael Gallagher and daughter Kelly Boudreaux from his first marriage, and by at least one other son, Aaron Miranda of Tarpon Springs, South Carolina, whose existence he learned about only in recent years and a daughter, Sonia VanDerwende of West Palm Beach, FL and several grandchildren. He was preceded in death by grandson, Jace. He is also survived by his cats Bozo and Cookie, and by a loyal group of close friends who adored him: Greg Latsko, a.k.a. Reindeer, of Bethlehem, PA; Richard Noll and Janis Kaghazwala of Allentown, PA; Ted and Rachel Poley of Hellertown, PA; Donald Severn and his family of Hellertown; Therese Maskulka of Kutztown, PA; Danny and Tina Frederick of Bethlehem, PA; and Kristin Bremer of Kutztown.
Alas, also like Houdini, Hugh finally reached a point where he could not escape a tight spot, although he tried mightily. He died of kidney failure at the Lehigh Valley Hospice at 17th and Chew in Allentown, on July 8, 2018. A super organizer to the point of being a control freak, Hugh spent his last months putting his affairs in order, arguing with funeral directors to get the cheapest deal on his cremation, and was delighted that he cheated all the local senior assisted living homes out of a fat payday by dying inexpensively on his own terms. The “greedy scoundrels” didn’t win in the end: Hugh did. And he is smiling about this even now.
At Hugh's request there will be no funeral services. Arrangements are entrusted to JAMES FUNERAL HOME, Bethlehem. Offer condolences at www.jamesfuneralhome.org.