New Castle News

May 13, 2013

‘A Great Person’: Dan Gallatin remembered as fireman, Mason

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Lawrence County firefighting community was saddened last week by the loss of one of its brothers.

Dan Gallatin, 68, a member of the Scott Township Volunteer Fire Department for nearly 40 years, was killed Tuesday when the motorcycle he was riding was hit from behind on Route 956 in Hickory Township.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gallatin also is remembered as a military veteran and an active member of the Masonic Mahoning-New Castle Lodge 243, the New Castle Consistory, the Syria Shrine and the New Castle Area Honor Guard.

All of those groups paid him tribute with a special service, and a motorcycle and fire truck procession Saturday that led him to his final resting place at Parkside Cemetery in Shenango Township.

The effort was coordinated by fellow Masons Gary Huff and Tim Raynor, and included motorcyclists from Pennsylvania Chapter 24 of the Red Knights, a firefighter group; Hiram’s Scottish Riders and the Widows’ Sons, both Masonic groups; Riders through the Storm, a local church-based group; the U.S. Military Veterans Motorcycle Club local chapter; the War Dogs; and the Christian Motorcycle Association.

A line of fire trucks from departments countywide joined the motorcade.

The New Castle Area Honor Guard had assigned members to stand guard over Gallatin during visitation.



MAN OF DEDICATION

Gallatin was a life member and past chief of the Scott fire department.

Scott Township Fire Chief Jack Hitchen said Gallatin also was the department’s emergency medical services captain and worked for the Noga and Slippery Rock ambulance services.

“He was a great person to be around,” Hitchen said.

Gallatin had retired from active fire duty about three years ago but remained strong in the fund-raising and administration of the organization, Hitchen said.

Gallatin’s wife, Mary Lou, was a 911 dispatcher for 27 years, retiring in 2009, and both are well known in the emergency services community.

“I’ve know Dan since 1978. Our kids grew up together,” Hitchen said.

The accident that claimed Gallatin’s life occurred in front of Gallatins’ daughter’s house as he was pulling into her driveway to do work there, Hitchen said.

Six fellow fire members answered the call, Hitchen said. “It was quite a shock to our people and they called me shortly after they found out who it was.”

The Lawrence County crisis team of mental health counselors provided debriefing, he said.

“We sat around and had a nice talk about Dan. People let their emotions out and everything stayed in that room. It was a group session with a lot of tears and a lot of sad faces, telling stories, crying a little bit and giving hugs. It’s a very sad loss to the department. We will miss him greatly.”

“Dan was very active in the honor guard and in honoring all of the veterans,” Hitchen added.

Brian Melcer, Lawrence County public safety director, remembers the quiet-natured Gallatin as the husband of his employee.

Melcer remembers Gallatin taking fish dinners from the Eagle’s Club to the 911 center employees on Fridays during Lent.

“He was a wonderful person, as is his wife. He was part of our LEOC family.”



A LIFELONG FRIEND

Fritz Richardson of Slippery Rock, a lifelong friend of Gallatin’s, worked with him at Bell Telephone, then Verizon when he retired, and served with him in the fire department and lived near him in Harlansburg. They also were fellow Masons and Shriners.

“We had a lot of tall tales to tell from work,” Richardson said, “but our friendship really evolved from living in Harlansburg.”

Richardson, also a life member of Scott’s fire department, remembers them both joining around 1970. He said Gallatin served 12 years as chief.

Richardson remembered a winter in the late 1970s when there was a blizzard and the Gallatins couldn’t get into their driveway because it was blocked after the road was plowed.

“It was below zero, and I was up there with my little Kubota and cleared it so they could get in and out. They were snowbound for about a week.”

Gallatin and Richardson would go to a friend’s house in West Virginia for hunting weekends.

Gallatin always “packed heat” and was a staunch Second Amendment supporter, Richardson said. At a recent gathering, Richardson jokingly asked him, quoting an old Mae West line, “Is that a gun in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”

Gallatin grinned and responded, “both.”

“That’s my best memory of him,” Richardson said.

Rayner, president of Hiram’s Scottish Riders, said Gallatin was a charter member and staunch supporter of the club since it formed four years ago.

“He was one of the guys I could count on,” he said, noting the bike club raises funds for the Children's Dyslexia Center of Western Pa., a Scottish Rite charity.

“Every time we did a ride he was there,” Rayner said.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)