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Daniel James Gallagher, 71, National Fuel worker who became 'joywalker' after retirement

Nov. 6, 1947 – Jan. 12, 2019

Daniel James Gallagher was a lifelong National Fuel worker who spent four years as business manager for Local 2154 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

But when he retired in 2006, his family said, he "launched into full-blown expression of his life passions," which included dance, music, yoga and befriending everyone he met.

Mr. Gallagher was a founding member in 2014 of the Buffalo Joywalkers, a pop-up troupe of colorfully dressed dancers who engage passers-by and share smiles. Mr. Gallagher stood out with his improvisational, free-flowing dance moves, wearing a white hoodie and sunglasses, sometimes with his beloved Gordon setter, Finnegan. Even over the summer, when his health deteriorated, he participated in Buffalo Joywalkers events in a wheelchair.

Mr. Gallagher, 71, of Lake View, died in his beachfront home Jan. 12 after a cancer diagnosis, his family said.

He was born in Buffalo, the second oldest son of Raymond and Ruth (Barnett) Gallagher and brother of Thomas and twins Patricia and Pamela. Both his parents worked for steel companies. His father was a crane operator at Bethlehem Steel; his mother was a switchboard operator at Republic Steel.

He lived for the first nine years of his life in the Johnson Park neighborhood of Buffalo, then the family moved to the Wanakah Beach neighborhood of Hamburg. Mr. Gallagher graduated from Amsdell Junior High School, then Frontier High School in 1965.

After graduation, Mr. Gallagher began working for National Fuel as a meter-reader in Buffalo. He became a gas technician, then business manager for the union from 1986 to 1990. After leaving that post, he worked for National Fuel as a compression station manager until his retirement in 2006.

On July 14, 1971, Mr. Gallagher met Susan M. Grek at Mr. Goodbar on Elmwood Avenue. They struck up a conversation, but "being very shy," his family said, she refused to give him her phone number. However, she had mentioned that she lived across the street from the Our Lady of Seneca Street Shrine, which her mother, Helen Grek, took care of for many years. As a meter reader, he knew the house, and he showed up the next day on a motorcycle, inviting her to join him for a ride. They were married a year later.

The Gallaghers lived for eight years in South Buffalo, then moved to Lake View, where they raised their children, Amy, Cory James and Cassie Gallagher.

Mr. Gallagher had practiced yoga daily since he was 18, his family said, attending classes with various teachers, including at the Himalayan Institute. He was formally trained at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Mass.

He sought out opportunities to dance at any music venue, including Nietzche's, Buffalo Iron Works, the Tudor Lounge and the Tralf, his family said. They described his dance floor moves as "free-form free-flowing expression from his soul," ranging from slow, Tai Chi-inspired rhythms to erratic, frenzied movements.

Mr. Gallagher was an avid swimmer and a natural "intuitive hands-on energy healer," his family said. He assisted other members of the "Friends of St. Peregrine" Catholic healing ministry for people with cancer, even when he himself was being treated for the disease, they said.

From 1990 to 2000, Mr. Gallagher volunteered at Friends of Night People near Allentown. His family said that he would often bring people in need to his home for meals, and this generosity continued after he ended his formal volunteer work. "He believed the beauty that surrounded him, and his many blessings, were meant to be shared," his family said. After meeting a new person, he would often end the encounter with one of his favorite phrases, "Strangers no more."

He encouraged his children to share their artistic talents. In 2011, his daughter Amy, a writer and poet, and son Cory James, a tenor vocalist, founded "Concerts for the Soul," which combine song, music and poetic reflections.

Besides his wife of 46 years and children, Mr. Gallagher is survived by his siblings, Thomas Gallagher, Patricia Machina and Pamela Gallagher, as well as a grandson, nieces and nephews.

A private wake and Mass of Christian Burial have been held.

The family will hold a "Celebration of Joy Concert" at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8 in St. Michael's Catholic Church, 651 Washington St., Buffalo, followed by a party with music and dancing at Imagine Event Center, 71 Military Road, Buffalo.

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