What COVID-19 has taught us about long-term care
Building an equal future for women in Atlantic Canada
SaltWire Selects: Stories you don't want to miss
SPECIAL REPORT: Facets of family violence
Have you tried the SaltWire News app?
UPDATED: COVID-19 news and numbers
Continuing coverage: Mass shooting in Nova Scotia
What's working for businesses in 2021?
Frances Galgay had right of way that February evening, says son
Jonathan Galgay misses his mother Frances’s smile and laughter, and longs to hear her voice at that time of the day when she’d check in.
“I miss her calls. It’s your mom, so there’s a whole lot of things that you miss. But when the phone rings you kind of stop and, ‘Is it her?’“ said Galgay, who had just landed on a plane in Forteau in February to visit his wife’s parents en route to a new job in Labrador when he learned Frances Galgay had been struck on a crosswalk in the west end of St. John’s.
Galgay said Wednesday that the police investigation has revealed Frances was doing everything correctly, crossing with the right of way when she was hit by an oil truck Feb. 5.
She was 73.
- Obituary: Frances Galgay
- Police investigation continues into fatal truck-pedestrian accident in St. John's Friday evening
In 2011, her husband of 38 years, well-known barber Gus, died. They were planning to retire together, but she decided to keep working after his death — she was the school secretary at St. Peter’s Junior High in Mount Pearl for the last 22 years of her career.
“They dearly loved her. Even though we thought she should have retired many years ago, every day she got up and went to work. Because that is what she enjoyed. … That was a good decision for her to make following my father’s death and she certainly made the best of the remaining years,” Galgay said.
About an hour before she was hit by the truck, Frances got to see her daughter, Carla, and her husband, who are expecting a baby next week. Having come from Ottawa to St. John’s, the couple had just finished self-quarantining at the family home on Hamilton Avenue while Frances stayed with her best friend, Zita Murphy. (Her other daughter, Danielle, and her husband live on the west coast.)
Earlier that day Frances went for a long walk with her sister, Esther, in Bowring Park.
When the accident happened, Frances was on her way to meet a friend for dinner at Burger King, a Friday night routine, and was crossing the Forbes Street intersection.
She walked two or three times a day or more, said Galgay, who saw her last for lunch a couple of days before he left St. John’s.
“There are no words to describe the feeling you have. Only that you have to pull yourself together to be that support system for your family,” he said. “We’re a close family and you just really have to focus on each other and provide the support for each other.”
The only solace for Murphy is that Gus and Frances have been reunited.
“They had the most beautiful relationship that I have seen in my lifetime in a couple,” said Murphy, who was there to see it all.
For her and Frances, it was 68 years of being best buddies.
Murphy was born the same day in the same hospital as Gus, and she and Frances connected right away in kindergarten.
She was good fun and was up for any prank, her friend recalled.
“She made us laugh constantly just by her one-liners. She was as quick as a whip — whatever you said, she had an answer before you finished your line,” Murphy said.
Even when she was up to something, there was nothing her teachers, the nuns, could do but laugh at the antics, Murphy said.
“She was a treasure in my life." — Zita Murphy
Frances was the only student who could get away with eating a bar and drinking a can of Pepsi in class, said Murphy.
Frances and Murphy were part of each others’ extended families and their children grew up together.
“If you knew Frances for five minutes you could never, ever forget her,” Murphy said.
“She was a treasure in my life. I was so blessed to have her and Gus and their family. They were such wonderful, wonderful parents — exemplary and exceptional.”
Music and friends
Their husbands were diagnosed with cancer days apart and, after Gus died, Frances was there every evening after work for the remaining few years of Murphy’s husband’s illness.
“She never left me. … She brought such joy to my life and his life during that time,” Murphy said.
With both their husbands gone, they went on adventures together, and were dubbed “Thelma and Louise” by their children.
Frances was like a magnet when she got out her accordion to play Newfoundland and Irish music. She also volunteered at seniors' homes and played concerts from St. John’s to Kelligrews.
And Frances’s generosity was unmatched, said Murphy.
“Most of what she made was given back to this community,” she said.
“No one would ever know what she was doing. She helped more people, gave more in this town, this city, than an awful lot of people.“
Murphy represented the family at a gathering at St. Peter's and was struck by all the staff, from maintenance workers to teachers, who gathered in a circle in the auditorium to share stories about Frances while clasping tissues.
“She was such a beautiful, beautiful soul,” Murphy said.
“It was a shock to all of us. It really was tough.”
Frances was also a woman of faith active in St. Patrick’s parish, where she and Gus were baptized and married and were lifelong attendees with their children.
Support for family
Galgay said he received overwhelming support from not only former St. John’s city council colleagues and friends, but mayors and councillors from around the world.
“That is what is truly humbling about this whole experience — is to know the impact and knowing that people are out there and actually caring for you,” he said, adding that the COVID-19 pandemic has meant those thoughts are mainly expressed through phone calls and emails.
“We haven’t had a chance to sit down and talk with people. People are still struggling with this,“ he said.
Galgay said the RNC investigators were incredibly kind to deal with, and he has written to both the chief and the fire department.
He has also gained new perspective.
It’s been almost two months since our mothers sudden & tragic passing.— Jonathan P. Galgay (@JonathanGalgay) March 28, 2021
Sending a sincere thank you to everyone who reached out & for your acts of kindness.
Special thanks to first responders for your professionalism and compassion. You have a special place in our hearts. pic.twitter.com/FmTWMI7WlT
“I think that one of the things that I have learned from this is that when you watch the news or read the paper and you see or hear of an accident or a tragedy, we shouldn’t be so quick to change the channel or turn the page. There’s a family and there’s a story behind it,” he said.
“You really should pause and think about the people who are impacted by it. There are so many lives that have changed as a result of the tragedy.”
Galgay said he’s hurt Harvey's Oil did not reach out to the family or send a sympathy card.
According to Harvey’s Oil general manager Chris Forward, management did speak to the Galgay family to offer condolences, with a plan to sit privately with the owners and senior management and to express the same, in person. But he said via email that unfortunately, the COVID-19 spike that triggered the "circuit breaker" lockdown on Feb. 9 prevented the private meeting from occurring at that time.
Forward said the company continues to support the Harvey’s distributor through its internal programs, but the driver involved is not currently on the road.
“As a family-owned business in Newfoundland and Labrador, we remain deeply saddened by this tragic incident,” Forward said, adding that out of respect for the family and the police investigation, that is all that can be commented on at this time.
The driver of an oil truck involved in the collision has been charged under the Highway Traffic Act, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary told The Telegram Thursday morning.
"This incident was a tragedy, and we send our deepest condolences to the family of Ms. Galgay. The outpouring of support from the community is indicative of the value of her contributions throughout her life," spokesman Const. James Cadigan said in an email.
The family set up the Frances Galgay Memorial Award, an annual award for students at St. Peter’s Junior High who exemplify the qualities of kindness, love, caring, humour and energy. Donations can be made to the school.