Elizabeth Sheridan Gallagher, beloved mother, wife, sister, aunt, teacher and friend, passed away on November 29, 2018. She lived in Pawling, NY, and also had a home in Ancram, NY. Elizabeth was born on May 25, 1935, in Poughkeepsie, NY, to James and Teresa Sheridan. She graduated from Pawling High School in 1953 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Manhattanville College of the Sacred Heart in 1957.
Elizabeth began her extraordinary 42-year career as an educator in 1957, when she started teaching kindergarten at the Ridgeway School in White Plains, NY. On June 25, 1960, she married the love of her life, Thomas O’Rourke Gallagher, at Saint John’s Church in Pawling. The couple had two much-loved sons, Thomas Edward Gallagher and Peter James Gallagher.
After taking a hiatus from teaching to raise her young children, Elizabeth accepted a one-year position teaching third grade at Pawling Elementary School in 1972. At the end of the school year, Jay Sherlach, then the Principal of Pawling Elementary, asked her to take a permanent position as a kindergarten teacher. After a weekend of deliberation, she agreed.
Over the next 39 years, Elizabeth became a legendary kindergarten teacher and beloved member of the Pawling Community. Her unique ability to inspire joy and a love of learning and of life in young children was cherished by students and parents alike. She brought enormous creativity, rigor and energy to her work and was widely known for her extraordinary love and care for her students, and for their extraordinary love of her. Rare was the day when Elizabeth could walk through Pawling without a former student, parent, or colleague approaching her to share a joyful hug and express their gratitude, even years after her retirement from teaching in 2011.
Elizabeth was a talented soprano who sang with the Choirs of Saint John’s Church and Christ Church on Quaker Hill, as well as in the Putnam Chorale. She loved playing the piano with her schoolchildren and teaching them songs. Her classes were sometimes referred to as the Gallagher Choir.
Elizabeth was formally recognized for her contributions to the Pawling community on multiple occasions. In April 2004, the Pawling Parent Teachers Association honored her with a formal event in appreciation of her excellence as an educator. In June 2012, she received the Pawling Public Radio “Voices of Pawling Award” for her “life long love and nurturing of Pawling’s children and her commitment to education and family values.”
In September 2004, the Pawling Central School District and the Pawling P.T.A. dedicated the new Pawling Elementary School playground to Elizabeth and formally named it after her, in thanks for “sharing her exuberant spirit, joy for the arts, and love of learning” with the children of Pawling. At the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Elizabeth Sheridan Gallagher Playground, Elizabeth told the crowd that she “feels such a responsibility to keep joy and love alive in their hearts.”
Elizabeth is predeceased by her parents and husband and is survived by countless friends, her two sons, and her four sisters.
In coming days, the family will announce plans for a Memorial Service, in honor of Elizabeth’s life, that all will be welcome to attend.