Shirley Rose Gallagher 1922-2020
ALAMOSA — Shirley Rose Gallagher died on the evening of April 15 at The Bridge in Alamosa, Colorado. The daughter of Newton Kinney and Rose Pearl (Fortine) Gray, she was born in Los Angeles on October 9, 1922, and lived in southern California during her formative years. She graduated from Alhambra High School in 1940, attended Pasadena Junior College, and, in the mid-1940s, worked as a singer and musician in the Los Angeles area.
During the final weeks of World War II, Shirley was selected to join the only USO show sponsored by the United States Navy in the Pacific Theater.
Eddie Bracken headlined the show, which played to large and enthusiastic crowds of soldiers, sailors, and Marines on the islands of Guam, Saipan, Tinian, and elsewhere. Following one performance, Rear Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd, Jr., the noted Arctic and Antarctic explorer, gave her the stars off his collar as a keepsake. She kept a diary during the tour, writing one evening: “Today at the hospital we all got to pin the Purple Heart on some fellows; it was something and a wonderful experience.”
Returning to Los Angeles from the Pacific islands in August 1945, Shirley Rose continued to perform for wounded service personnel. In December 1945, an administrator with the Red Cross Camp and Hospital Committee in Los Angeles thanked her “on behalf of the patients at the many hospitals where you have so graciously appeared. I am sure you know by now how much music means to these wounded men and how important it is that they feel we haven’t forgotten them.” Shirley cherished memories of her tour in the Pacific and of the friendships she forged, recounting the experience in a limited-edition memoir titled A Never-to-Be Forgotten Adventure: Reminiscences of the Bracken Show in the South Pacific, July-August 1945. The National Archives thought her contributions significant as well, featuring a photograph of her performing with Bracken and a passage from her diary in a major exhibit of personal accounts of World War II that was created in 1992 and displayed in eleven cities across the United States.
On June 16, 1946, Shirley married William “Bill” Gallagher, another graduate of Alhambra High who had served four years as an officer in the U.S. Navy during World War II, at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in San Gabriel, California. The couple had two sons, Tim and Gary. The family left Southern California in the summer of 1954, relocating to the San Luis Valley, where they lived on a farm east of Alamosa before moving in 1957 to another farm in the Carmel District. They resided in Carmel for more than 40 years, then moved to Alamosa in 1999.
Shirley, always the gracious hostess, enjoyed a wide circle of friends who appreciated her quick wit and bridge skills. She loved art, music, the cinema, and the ocean. She especially enjoyed collecting shells during walks along beaches in both the United States and Mexico. She and Bill frequently spent winters with friends in Puerto Peñasco and other favorite places along the Mexican coast. In recent years, they enjoyed winters in Green Valley, Arizona.
Devoted to large dogs, Shirley lavished attention on the family pets that were German Shepherds and Dobermans. She also took politics seriously, participating in local and state Republican Party activities and holding organizational offices within the party. For many years, Shirley also played an active role in Child Study Club and the local Chapter AE P.E.O. Another community connection was the “Roller Roundup” that Bill and Shirley built, owned and operated for several years.
Shirley’s children and grandchildren knew her best as “Mim,” a generous, yet demanding presence who helped prepare them for life’s mixture of high points and hard edges. Her competitive nature was evident whether she was playing ping-pong, croquet, or in a game of cards or dominos.
Shirley will be remembered lovingly, and missed deeply, by her friends and most particularly by her family. She is survived by her devoted husband Bill of nearly 74 years, her son Tim and his wife Marsha, her son Gary, her grandchildren William (Yasuko) Gallagher, Angie (Jason) Rossback, Tami (Matt) Sliwkowski, and Marlena Rose (Steven) Halko, and eight great-grandchildren. At her request, a private family memorial will be held.
Rogers Family Mortuary is in care of the arrangements. To leave memories and your condolences for Shirley’s family please visit www.rogersfunerals.com.