EXPIRED: 11/16/09 – Robert J. Gallo, 78, died peacefully in North Carolina, having retired there after decades of hard work as a stone mason in New York and New England.
Not many people really understand what a stone mason really is anymore. For Bob, and for the people he trained, who worked by his side and who did the type of work he did, it was an art. A lost art. And Bob Gallo was an artist.
I remember, as a kid growing up in Westchester County, NY, driving through the countryside and seeing old stone walls weaving over hills and through old growth forests. They were built centuries ago by people – like Bob – to separate farms and to designate property borders. And they seemed to be forgotten, crumbling over time. I always thought it would be cool to put them back togehter again, but oh, what a daunting task.
Well, Bob took on that task. Bob was nationally acclaimed at what he did, and he was honored by Architectural Digest magazine and the Westchester Art Society. He worked for big wigs in business and entertainment – those were the people who bought those huge estates with the meandering stone walls.
But his business, Gallo Stone Company, also worked with regular folk, too. And he treated his employees fairly – making them feel like if they weren’t on the job, all hell would break loose. So when you showed up he’d make the sign of the cross, showing you just how happy – and relieved – he was to see you.
When not working, Bob made sure he gave back to the community. He coached local soccer and basketball teams, he raised funds for the Heart Association and the Kidney Foundation, and he worked with the Lewisboro Lions Club and the Italian-American Club.
He also traveled extensively and when he could he extended his artistic abilities further than just working with stone. Bob was also an accomplished sculptor and painter. He was also an accomplished joker, and at one time hooked up a sound effects recording of a cattle call to his truck, so when he saw someone he knew while driving past he’s unexpectedly surprise them with a quick toot.
Many people recall seeing Bob’s familiar pose: stooped over a rock wall, trademark hat on his head, trowel always in his hand. If that’s how you remember him, you didn’t really get the full extended picture of him. He was a tall guy. And he loved basketball. And in his younger days he could play a pretty decent game of hoops. He even played in college and professionally for a time.
So after a long life of laughter, love and hard work, leaves behind his wife, Penni, his daughters Diane and Shanon, and his son Colin, as well as grandchildren and great grandchildren, whom he adored. He was preceded in death by his son, Robert Jr.
But he also leaves behind a legacy of incredible stone artistry throughout the Northeast, as well as the many people who fell in love with the craft because of his passion.
If you pick up the book “Sermons in Stone: The Stone Walls of New England and New York,” by Susan Allport, you’ll get a good feel for the reverence people have for these undulating works of art. Bob is even quoted in it.