Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Times of Our Lives

The Seattle Times today features a short but moving obituary about Nick Gallo, written by staff reporter Erik Lacitis. Other than Candace Dempsey’s recent blog item at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer site, it’s the only coverage of Nick’s death that I’ve seen in the major Seattle media. Which is strange, considering how many friends he made in local journalism circles over the years. Even Crosscut Seattle, the recently inaugurated local news site spearheaded by David Brewster, who for many years worked with Nick at Seattle Weekly, doesn’t seem able to muster any original comment on his passing, even though it posted two remembrances of local historian Walt Crowley, another Weekly alumnus who died within the last month. Instead, Crosscut today just dropped in a link to the Times obit.

Lacitis (who apparently knew Nick from their joint participation in regular media basketball games years ago) called me yesterday for some comments, but what I have to say here is far from the most compelling part of his Times article. More interesting are the things he heard from Nick’s wife, Laurie Brown, about their life together before he graduated from the University of Oregon journalism school in 1977:
... [I]n the early 1970s, Mr. Gallo and his wife were hippies, she said.

Brown said the couple worked from June until October in Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington, picking fruit. On good days, she said, they earned $100 together.

They lived on their savings the rest of the year, with Mr. Gallo writing poetry and Brown doing art projects.

But even as a hippie, she said, Mr. Gallo showed his fastidiousness, going to orchards the night before and scoping out which trees would yield the most fruit and what height ladders the couple would need.
That sounds just like Nick, always readying himself for the tasks ahead. He was a thoughtful, prepared writer who never acted as if he knew everything (unlike some other Seattle media folk of my acquaintance). The anecdote with which Lacitis begins his story, telling about how Nick called his editor at Alaska Airlines Magazine from his hospital room in Athens, Greece, on the day before he died, just to let him know that he’d be down for a while, and therefore unable to address any changes the editor thought necessary on an article he’d recently submitted, simply confirms Nick’s precision. In my experience with him over the years, acting as his editor on different assignments, Nick was never anything less than professional, with the highest standards for his work.

Also interesting from Lacitis’ piece are the circumstances of Nick’s demise. According to Laurie, he “was diagnosed with pericarditis--a swelling of the membrane around the heart--and pneumonia.” She adds that Nick “had been in good health, although he had rheumatic fever as a child, which can affect the heart. Brown said autopsy results are expected in 10 days.”

All of this only reminds us again how surface appearances can be deceptive. I would have thought that Nick, who I’m quite sure was in better shape than I, would one day be attending my memorial service, rather than the other way around.


Italian Woman, aka Candace said...

Jeff, I'm glad you wrote this. I too wondered about the lack of attention, but perhaps they're waiting for the memorial. Or perhaps it has something to do with that tag "freelance writer." He was a writer, plain and simple. I like the way one of his friends described him "writer and world traveler." Besides, he was actually employed at the time!

It's scary to think that, because of the lack of attention, people are finding out that he died from my blog. I was lucky enough to have a friend tell me, so didn't have to read it in the newspaper.

P.S. Am I shallow to wish they'd come up with a better headline? Fastidious is just so bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff, This is terrible news. I just heard from a friend that Nick Gallo died on Oct 11th. My web search brought me to your blog. I can't believe it, I saw Nick at Third Place Books on an 65th Street on Wednesday, October 3rd. We spoke for a few minutes as I introduced him to some friends while we were in the same coffee line. My heart goes out to Nick's family. Nick encouraged me to write and offered me Bull Pen assistance on an article I was writing. He was a true fireman. Nick's death is a terrible loss for everyone who knew him. With respect,
Michael Galloway (206) 526-7945