With Norman Gallman was Coley Worth, the retired comedian and guest star of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, Coley's wife Marcia, the adorable former Radio City Rockette, Phyllis Lawrence who had been in the US Diplomatic Corps for her whole career, Mike Haaf who had served a harrowing term in VietNam, Edith Balint the proud mother of a Seattle attorney son and an Egyptologist daughter, and so many others in addition to the southern lady herself, Ada Coates Williams.
It was a class where I learned so much and not just from our wonderful instructor. I was blessed (and that is the only appropriate word) to be with these amazing people of such vast experience and wisdom. But so many blessings carry a high price and the unbearably high price for this blessing was that they would pass away while I was still young. The cost of loving is paid in the losing.
When I wrote on Coley and Marcia Worth, I was surprised by the remorse that was evoked and the longing to have seen them one last time. Even preparing to write on Norman Gallman brings up the same feelings. But these were all such truly remarkable people that I gladly bear the price for the purpose of telling their stories again.
Norm Gallman was born in Wellsville, NY in 1909. His career began in the newspaper field in 1926 at the age of 17 years. He was hired by the Allegany County Democrat as a reporter-printer. Later, he served as editor of the Allegany County edition of the Hornell Tribune, and later still as news editor of the Wellsville Daily Reporter. He was a born writer and the newspaper field suited him well.
He met and married Leone Beebe in the 1930's. She was an adorable elementary school teacher and was almost five years older than he. She was the granddaughter of a Seneca Native American woman and she enjoyed talking with me about her grandmother, especially when she discovered my Seminole/Creek roots. Sadly, the only photo I have from them is one that Norm took of me with Beebe, which is what he called her. I never had one of Norm and I.
Norm was appointed State Motor Vehicle Information secretary in 1938, tax publications editor in 1939 and director of Publications and Public Relations in 1943, all within the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. While it seems like he had departed from his writing career, nothing could be further from the truth because, during the presidential campaigns of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Governor Thomas E. Dewey, Norm served as a press relations consultant and speech writer. He also served in that capacity in the gubernatorial campaigns of Governors Dewey and Rockefeller and in the U.S. Senatorial campaign of John Foster Dulles.
In 1959, he was appointed New York state's deputy commissioner of Taxation and Finance and secretary to the State Tax Commission. In 1963, in addition to serving as deputy commissioner he was named administrative director of the department. In 1969, he was designated acting commissioner of Taxation and Finance and president of the State Tax Commission, by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller.
Norm worked for a while as a board member of the New York State Conservation Commission and he and Beebe wrote a volume for that commission's magazine Conservationist (Vol. 30, No.1). It was considered one of the first and best insights into the role of government in the fight for conservation. They also co-authored the book Moment in the Sun on the same topic. Norm always remained a writer, first and foremost.
Finally, in 1971 Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed him commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance. Norm retired from state service in 1973, aged 63, after 35 years of government service. Governor Rockefeller's letter to him read "your brilliant career has earned the respect of the people of this state and all who have been privileged to work with you."
At his retirement dinner, there were almost 900 people in attendance. There was a statement read at this banquet which said, "There are many measures of a man but perhaps none more meaningful than the respect and affection in which he is held by those who know him best, as friends and associates."
While he and Beebe kept their home in Schroon Lake, New York (near Saratoga), they also maintained a retirement condominium in Stuart, Florida. This was when I got to meet them.
As I said, we attended a creative writing class together. It was Norman who showed me that any writing for any publication can be creative writing. I had complained that sports writers were dull and he passed me articles by sports columnist Red Smith. Smith described the process of writing as "You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed." That is probably the most fitting description of real writing that I have ever heard.
I loved Smith's writing but I told Norm that I completely disliked the way Smith had written and continued to write about Muhammad Ali. Smith had called Ali a "sorry spectacle" for Ali's refusal to serve in the military. I, of course, defended Ali but Norm dodged the argument by returning to the subject of writing and saying that Smith had achieved what he intended; I was talking about him and I was now passionately engaged in the topic, even though the topic had been resolved 10 years before. And wasn't that something in itself? I had become involved in a dispute long settled, thanks to Smith's writing.
We talked so much about the power of words to entertain, to inspire, to enlighten. "Done rightly," Norm had said, "You can do all three at once." He told me of his speech writing days and I became fascinated by the speeches of FDR and JFK and then was truly moved by the power and passion of Martin Luther King, Jr. "Ah, well now...King was just a world above anyone else. Read him to find the true example of cadence and pacing and let him be your guide into the beauty of the spoken word. More than Lincoln, more than Kennedy, more than Churchill even... Dr. King combined power and beauty."
When the class finished that semester, we had a dinner together and Ms. Williams, our professor, had arranged for it at the Pelican Yacht Club in Fort Pierce, Florida. Norm was the Master of Ceremonies for the evening and he arranged for each of us to compose and read something fitting for the evening. It was wonderful.
We begged for another semester together under Ms. Williams. She petitioned the Dean for a Creative Writing II class and the request was granted straightaway. Almost all of us returned for the second part of the class.
During the holiday break, however, Norm and Beebe invited me to dinner with them and their granddaughter, Valery Strazzeri. I think that Norm and Beebe had hopes of something happening which, of course, never did.
The second semester of that Creative Writing class was just as much fun as the first. The writing from Norm and the elder classmates was brilliant. I learned so much from just listening.
I finished my two years at Indian River and went on to finish my undergraduate studies out-of-state. I kept in touch with Norm for some time after that. It was Norm who wrote to inform me of the deaths of our beloved classmates. By the time my schooling was complete, I had lost touch with Norm. It was the days before the Internet and I could no longer find him. He was gone from Stuart, Florida and I could not find him at Schroon Lake, NY.
It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered that his health had failed and he and Beebe had moved to live with their son and daughter-in-law. They had moved to New Bern, North Carolina.
Norman Gallman died in New Bern, NC on March 19, 1998. He was 88 years old and survived by his beloved Beebe. They had been married for 67 years. Beebe passed on February 25, 2003 at the age of 98 years. To my dismay, I found that they had lived only three blocks from my sister.
Here is a good story of Norm while he was still serving on the conservation commission following his retirement. He received the following letter and Norm's reply was vintage Norman Gallman.
I'm writing concerning something I did about five to seven years ago. I changed my ways of living and I'm serving the Lord and I wanted to make a wrong right. I don't remember if the limit of fish during salmon fishing was five or six, but I caught my limit and one or two over the limit and I would like to make this known to you so if there is a fine I want to pay for it.
Yours Truly, Rusty."
Thank you for your recent confession of a past fishing misdeed. Obviously it has bothered you since you still remember it after some five to seven years.
I'm sure, Rusty, that there were days when you didn't catch any fish at all, so things have a way of evening out. As long as the fish weren't wasted, the offense isn't that dreadful.
I have a suggestion. If you'd like to protect and enhance trout habitat, why not join Trout Unlimited? This organization works hard to protect trout and salmon habitat and has local chapters all over the country - including Pennsylvania. Among the projects they're involved in is the periodic cleanup of trash and litter along trout streams. In this way you could get together with other members at a designated place and time, pick up a garbage bag and do some real good.
Do join and become an active member. It will be the best 'fine' that I could impose on you.
Respectfully, Norman Gallman."
That was Norm; firmly believing that "things have a way of evening out."
Norm, wherever you are, I'm glad I was privileged to spend some of the same time on Earth with you. Kiss that Seneca princess for me.