A teacher in Iowa
When she heard I wasn’t there, the woman introduced herself and explained that she was a teacher in Iowa, at home for a “snow day.” She had been going through a scrapbook and came across a name and hometown — mine — from her dead brother’s unit in Vietnam. She was trying to find me with the idea of asking some questions about her brother and his death.
It was one of Dan Gallagher’s sisters. She had gotten numbers for both Thorntons in the Winfield phone book, and called my uncle’s first.
Ellen explained that I lived in Kansas City, but would soon be in Winfield for my aunt’s funeral. Then she gave the woman an outdated phone number for me, from my uncle’s address book and they disconnected. Ellen told me about the call the next day, but couldn’t remember the woman’s name, or the town she was calling from.
Dan’s sister never called me.
It bothered me that members of Dan’s family had unanswered questions about his death, and nowhere to go for answers. Yet I had few ideas how to find a woman in Iowa when all I knew for sure was that she was a teacher.
I searched for Dan’s sister off and on (mostly off) for the next four years. I surfed several dozen school and school district websites in Iowa, sent many fruitless emails and wrote letters to the editors of various newspapers. None were ever published. I didn’t really have enough information for a credible search.
I was brainstorming ways to find out which Iowa schools were closed by snow in January, 1996, when I realized my approach was all wrong. I decided to begin a new search starting in Dan’s hometown of Blanchardville, Wisc.
The Internet phone directories showed no Gallaghers living in Blanchardville today. And I found that Blanchardville has very little presence on the web. But my atlas told me Blanchardville is near Madison, Wisc., and Yahoo.com gave me the website for the Wisconsin State Journal there. The WSJ staff list included an email address for Regional Reporter Susan Smith, so I wrote to her asking for local contacts in Blanchardville.
Susan sent me information about the Saether funeral home and Gary McKenzie, editor of the Blanchardville Blade-Atlas. I decided to write first to Gary and my letter went in the mail on March 6, 2000, with a printout of my account of Sept. 10, 1970. Two days later I got a long email from Gary and learned he not only knew the Gallagher family, but he attended Dan’s funeral in 1970. He telephoned one of Dan’s sisters, Randi Gallagher Kluesner, and faxed her my story. It was Randi who tried to contact me in 1996.
Like me, Randi says she always believed we would be in touch someday. But she was surprised to find the details of her brother’s death on a website. She sent me a long email the next day, including:
|“I am so glad that you sent me this article about the day Danny died … and have been on your site most of the morning. I have cried–I have used vulgar language–I have wanted to punch something, all because of the things that I have just read.”|
By now many members of the Gallagher family have read our accounts of Dan’s death and a couple have sent wonderful emails of appreciation. And the Blade-Atlas published a story about Dan’s death and the CAP 2-7-2 website. See that story by clicking on the link below.
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