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Family moments remembered

Updated 10:18 am, Saturday, August 17, 2013

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  • Joan Gallagher and her Golden Retriever on the porch of 216 Main Street, New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods
    Joan Gallagher and her Golden Retriever on the porch of 216 Main Street, New Canaan, Conn. Photo: Tyler Woods

 

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The following is the second of an ongoing series featuring New Canaan's porches.

Joan Gallagher has decorated her porch at 216 Main St. with a wicker sofa and armchair and a gold and green oriental rug. Pink petunias hang from baskets over the railing and a big, bright American flag hangs off the front.

Gallagher bought the house, which was built in 1898 according to the New Canaan Historical Society, for her parents in 1993 after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, so that they could be closer to her. At the time, she lived down the block at 196 Main St.

"My parents would sit out here all the time," Gallagher, who moved into the house after her parents died, said. "It's lovely for people at that age to be able to see life go by and see what's happening. It's what makes having a porch great."

She remembered how the porch played a role in her family's lives.

"My father used to wait here on the porch for my daughter to get off the school bus, and she'd come running up. It was a Norman Rockwell type of thing," she said.

When her daughter, now graduated from college and living in Manhattan, was in middle school, she and her friends would come back to the porch on Fridays, drop their bags off and walk into town.

One memory in particular stood out for Gallagher. In 1999, she called the American Legion about including her father, Thomas Gallagher Jr., in its contingent in the New Canaan Memorial Day Parade.

A 1935 graduate from Notre Dame University, he served during World War II with the Signal Corps as a chaplain's assistant, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star. In the war, he attended to men dying on the battlefield, assisting the priest in the reading of the last rites.

Thomas, who was 87 that year and in poor health, decided against being included in the parade, preferring instead to watch it proceed down Main Street from the porch with his wife and granddaughter.

But when the American Legion float passed in front of the house, the parade stopped. The men of the American Legion contingent turned to face the porch, on which Thomas Gallagher stood wearing a Notre Dame jacket and an American Legion hat, and they saluted. The parade continued, but the moment stuck with the Gallaghers. It was also Thomas Gallagher's final Memorial Day since he died within that year.

"It was one of the defining moments of his life in this house," Joan said.

Gallagher now shares the porch with her husband, Christopher Clark, and golden retriever, Gracie, when she isn't busy running her company, Warden-Brooks, which makes corporate gifts.

twoods@bcnnew.com;

203-330-6582; @Woods_NCNews