Those We Lost

Clockwise from top left: Dr. James J. Gallagher, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John McGinty receiving the Medal of Honor from
Lyndon Johnson, Daniel Tracy with baby Sykes and his mother, Jimmy Murphy with Nancy Reagan, and Eugene McGovern.

By Irish America Staff
April / May 2014

Dr. James J. Gallagher
1927 – 2014
Dr. James J. Gallagher, who fought tirelessly for children with special disabilities, died January 17 in Chapel Hill. He was 87.

Born June 11, 1926 in Pittsburgh, Gallagher’s mother was a teacher of disabled children, and he became the chief architect of the Individualized Education Program, which became a national standard for addressing the needs of disabled students.

Gallagher served in the Navy in WWII and subsequently earned a B.A. in Biology at the University of Pittsburgh, and later an M.A. and Ph.D. in psychology from Pennsylvania State College. From 1967-1970, he served with the Department of Education as associate commissioner of education, and then became the first chief of the office’s bureau for the Education of the Handicapped. Due to his efforts, Public Law 94-142, was passed in 1975, mandating public education to every disabled child.

Donald J. Stedman, president and CEO of New Voices Foundation and friend of Gallagher, said, “He cared about children” and “was relentless in his pursuit of real issues in research and teaching.” Dr. Gallagher was also behind the initial federal funding of Sesame Street and the development of closed captioning technology.

From 1970-87, Gallagher was the Director of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill which was dedicated to researching early childhood education. His commitment to education never wavered. In an article published in the Roeper Review last July, he wrote, “If the national defense plans for the 21st century are based on brains, not just bombs, then we need time and concentrated effort to create conditions where our education system turns out intelligent citizens ready to build a society that is impervious to outside influence or economic attack.”

Gallagher is survived by Rani, his wife of 64 years; his daughter Shelagh; three sons, Kevin, Sean and Brian; and five grandchildren. – Matthew Skwiat

Philip Seymour Hoffman
1967 – 2014
The world lost an im-measurable talent with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman from an accidental drug overdose on February 2.
Upon first glance Hoffman did not appear to fit the description of a classic leading man of Hollywood, but anyone who has seen any of his over 50 films will say he had a presence and performance all his own. His whole career went against playing the easy and depthless leading actor, instead he chose roles that were emotionally wrenching and difficult to pull off. Throughout his career he was nominated for four Academy Awards –  three for Best Supporting Actor (Charlie Wilson’s War, Doubt, and The Master) and one for Best Actor for the film Capote, for which he took home the Oscar in 2005.

Hoffman brought his dedication and eagerness to every role, whether he was playing a villain in Mission Impossible III, a journalist in Almost Famous, an ailing theater director in Synecdoche, New York, or head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in the blockbuster series The Hunger Games.

He was born in Fairport, NY on July 23, 1967, he has two sisters, Emily and Jill, and a brother, Gordy, who wrote the screenplay for Love Liza (2002), in which Hoffman starred. His mother, Marilyn O’Connor, is a retired Family Court judge. (In an emotional speech after accepting the Academy Award for Capote, Hoffman credited her for his success.) His father Gordon is a former executive with Xerox.

Hoffman began acting at Fairport High School where one of his earliest roles was Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman, a role he would recreate in a Tony nominated performance on Broadway in 2012. He then earned a B.F.A. in drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and co-founded the Bullstoi Ensemble theater company. His break onto the big screen was as Chris O’Donnell’s spoiled classmate in 1992’s Scent of a Woman.

Besides film, Hoffman was also a highly prolific performer on the stage, joining the Labyrinth Theater company in 1995. In 2000, he received a Drama Desk Awards nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for  The Author’s Voice, and three subsequent Tony nominations for True West, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Death of a Salesman. Robert Falls, director of Long Day’s Journey into Night, spoke to The New York Times of Hoffman’s stage acting: “I’m not talking about a method actor. He just brought every fiber of his being to the stage. He was there – with his depth of feeling, depth of humanity – and no other actor I’ve ever worked with ever brought it like that, not at that level.”

Hoffman is survived by his parents, his former girlfriend Mimi O’Donnell, and their three children. His funeral was held at St. Ignatius Loyola church in New York on February 7. – Matthew Skwiat

John J. McGinty III
1940 – 2014
John J. McGinty III, a Vietnam war hero, died of bone cancer at his home in South Carolina in January. He was 73.

McGinty was awarded the Medal of Honor for acts in Vietnam. “My father used to say that he did what any Marine sergeant would have done,” his son Michael told The New York Times. Two decades after he received the honor for running through gunfire and mortar explosions to lead his platoon to safety, McGinty renounced it. He said he had come to view the medal as a “form of idolatry,” and the image of Minerva it bore, the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, as “a false god.”

Born in Boston in 1940, McGinty grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. He joined the Marine Corps in 1958 after high school and reached the rank of staff sergeant by the time he left for Vietnam in 1966. In July of that year he was in charge of one of four platoons in Company K of the Third Battalion, Third Marine Division. The captain of Company K, Capt. Robert J. Modrzejewski, said that McGinty “was very close to his men…. He looked at them as kids, really – 18- and 19-year-old kids – with mothers and wives and girlfriends that he promised to get back home safe. That’s how we all felt.”

McGinty is survived by Michael and his other son, John J. McGinty IV. – Adam Farley

Eugene McGovern
1941 – 2014
Eugene McGovern, co-founder of Lehrer/ McGovern, a New York-based construction management firm that rose quickly to international prominence, died in January. He would have turned 73 on January 29.

Ever recognizable with his polished head, a cigar in or near his mouth, and cowboy boots under slacks, McGovern was responsible for the on-site side of the firm while his partner, Peter Lehrer, negotiated the deals. “Gene had an incredible gift of understanding how to solve problems, motivate people and get things done no matter how monumental,” Lehrer told the Engineering News Record.

That ability to approach engineering problems with seemingly insurmountable solutions could be seen early on in McGovern’s life when his father died, leaving a then-teenaged McGovern to care for his six younger siblings. He took construction jobs and eventually earned a civil engineering degree by taking night classes.

It was the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in 1986 that catapulted Lehrer/ McGovern to global notoriety and led to a string of high-profile construction projects across the world including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Euro Disney, and Canary Wharf in London. McGovern also stepped in to refurbish the home of police officer Steven McDonald when he was shot on duty and became a quadriplegic as a result. McGovern is survived by his wife Lisa and ex-wife Phyllis along with their four children and 13 grandchildren. – Adam Farley

Jimmy Murphy
1939 – 2014
Jimmy Murphy, founder of Jimmy’s, the iconic Hollywood restaurant, passed away in early February after losing a long battle to pancreatic cancer. He was 75.

Throughout his long and illustrious career, Murphy hobnobbed with the “who’s who” of celebrity. Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Maureen O’Hara, Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and so many more frequented Jimmy’s, where elegance was combined with good food and entertainment. In an interview with Irish America last year, Jimmy recalled, “It was a time when people really dressed up to go out, they would buy new dresses, get their hair done because they were going to have dinner at Jimmy’s. There was always glamour associated with it almost from day one. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were regulars. Burton said the Irish and the Welsh had three things in common: we are good drinkers, we are surrounded by water and none of us can swim.”

Murphy was born in Kilkenny, Ireland into a big Irish family of eight children. At 14, he left to find work in Dooley’s hotel in Waterford. From there he relocated to London where he worked at the Savoy hotel and met Charlie Chaplin, the first of many celebrity acquaintances. In 1963, he relocated to Los Angeles after meeting Anne Power, a nurse who became his wife. He opened Jimmy’s on South Moreno Drive in 1978.  He is survived by his wife Anne of 50 years, three children, and two grandchildren. – Matthew Skwiat

Daniel Tracy
1929 – 2014
Daniel Tracy, a heroic FDNY firefighter and Korean War veteran, lost his battle with cancer in January at the age of 85. Throughout his thirty-year career he became one of the most decorated firefighter’s in FDNY history, earning three medals in three years.

Tracy’s first medal came in 1965 when he rescued five children from a burning apartment building. His second soon followed when he was awarded the Brummer Medal after rescuing two people from a burning building in 1966, including seven-month-old Terry Sykes. Tracy’s act caught the eye of the then NY senator Robert F. Kennedy who said, “your courage and skill in effecting a series of rescues at great risk of personal safety deserve the highest admiration and respect.”

Tracy retired from the FDNY a captain in 1990, but his legendary status on the FDNY lives on. Terry Sykes, the baby Tracy rescued, was thankful every day for the heroic deed Tracy had done. He told the Daily News, “I always wanted to meet him and let my kids see the man who saved their father’s life.” Sykes now lives in Virginia Beach, but his daughter Dashawn attended the funeral, saying afterwards, “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here right now, so it’s really a blessing, we are a family now.”

Tracy was predeceased by his wife Shirley, and daughter Maureen. He leaves behind two children, a brother, and many grandchildren. – Matthew Skwiat

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