Mourners remember devoted teacher, witty personality

A portrait of Flo Gallagher with flowers for her memorial.

It was how Flo Gallagher would have wanted it.

On Saturday, more than 400 people remembered the vibrant, recently retired teacher as their best friend, simultaneously clapping and weeping to Gallagher’s favorite song, Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll.”

Gallagher’s daughter, Lauren, said during her mother’s memorial service at Mesa State College that the song had always been her mom’s request.

“For 41 years, I went with the Flo,” said Mike Gallagher, taking the stage after a series of friends and co-workers recalled warm memories of his wife. “I ask each one of you when you leave here today to hug each other, love each other. Your whole life can change in 30 seconds.”

“This is not an indication of what the world is about,” Mike Gallagher added, referring to the shooting a week earlier by a Front Range man that cut short his wife’s life and that of their friend, Grand Junction dentist Terry Fine.

Terry Fine’s wife, Linda, who also was shot by 22-year-old Stefan Martin-Urban in their Grand Junction neighborhood for yet unknown reasons, attended Saturday’s tribute.

But the senseless killing of Flo Gallagher, a wife, mother and teacher who relentlessly sought to teach underprivileged children, could not quash a lifetime of love and laughter that the 60-year-old embodied, said those who knew her best.

Family friend Mike Blackburn said he will miss his former neighbor’s witty and often irreverent quips, including:

•  “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, sit next to me.”

•  “Support bacteria. It’s the only culture some people have.”

• And “Life isn’t like a box of chocolates. It’s like jalapenos. What you do today might burn your butt tomorrow.”

Blackburn said Flo Gallagher, known for her sassy sense of humor, would jokingly call herself “the first
lady of Mesa State College,” a nod to her husband’s service as college president from 1996 to 2003.

But Flo Gallagher was also known to some high school students as a stickler for ensuring homework got done, and she was dubbed by one student as a “homework Nazi.”

She could have taught honors students, but she chose to teach struggling students, some of whom wouldn’t have earned diplomas without Flo Gallagher’s relentless prodding, said Grand Junction High speech teacher Sutton Casey.

“Mrs. Gallagher helped me with homework every day, and she was mean about it,” Casey read from a student’s comment. Casey said that girl wouldn’t have graduated without’s Flo Gallagher’s insistence.

Memorial bookmarks in memory of the beloved teacher were made as a nod to Flo Gallagher’s love of reading, a subject in which she earned her master’s degree.

Flo Gallagher had been retired about a week from a 30-year career of teaching in School District 51 when she was slain.

Flo and Mike, who married in 1963, traveled the world and lived in England, Germany, Spain and Turkey.

Flo Gallagher doted on the family dog, Mousse, who also made an appearance Saturday.

Friends, family and co-workers who spoke insisted the witty, well-traveled teacher, who loved to play the part of hostess and always worked for justice, would not have wanted friends to be saddened by her death.

“It’s OK to mourn Flo,” family friend Jim Fleming said.

“We have to know that she’s at peace with the Lord. I know she’s giving Him a hard time up there.”


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