1.10.2013

one last note to my fallen (read: risen) hero.



"Good Morning everyone. On behalf of my mom Kathy, my brothers Joe and Chris and my sister Maria, my grandparents Connie and Joe, my aunt and uncles Paul, Mark, Mary Ann and Steven, and everyone else in the extended Gallant and Fougere families, I want to thank you all so much for being here to help celebrate the life of the greatest man I’ve ever known. The love and support you have all shown us over these trying days has been nothing short of incredible, and if I know my Dad at all, I know he’s up there taking careful notes on everyone to whom he now owes favors.

"I’d like to take the time now to say a few words about our father and I thought the best way to do it might be to start from the beginning and tell you all a condensed version of his story, the way I have always known it.


 
"On October 15th, 1956, in the city of Chelsea, MA, our Nana and Gramps welcomed their first child into this world, a little baby boy. And like the generations of first Gallant sons that came before him, they named him Joseph, but agreed upon the common shortened form “Peter” for everyday use. Our dad grew up on the North Shore in the city of Revere, and like all little boys, he brought an abundance of joy and an endless supply of stress to our grandparents’ lives. There was a story we have often been told of the time our dad decided he was bored and wanted to stir up some trouble in his house by disguising himself and pretending to steal a bike out of his own backyard. Upon hearing the ruckus outside the house, Uncle Paul looked out the window and yelled to Gramps that someone was out there stealing the bikes. Gramps immediately went outside and saw what he thought was some hooded punk taking bikes from out of the yard. He began to yell at the kid in not so many words to kindly put the bike down and get away from his house, and instead of fessing up to the joke and giving himself away, Dad decided to  simply make a run for it. He hopped on the bike and rode away as fast as he could with Gramps chasing after him, yelling all sorts of colorful language as he tried so hard to get his kids’ bike back from whatever ne’er-do-well stole it out of the yard. At no point in this episode did our father stop and reveal himself, not even after Gramps tore his Achilles tendon in the pursuit. He just kept riding, all the way to the home of his Nana, where she welcomed him in with open arms and, most likely, a plate of macaroni, roast beef, and gravy.



"As Dad grew over the years, so did the family at 88 Beach Street. He became the loving oldest brother to my Uncle Paul, my Uncle Mark, my Auntie Mary Ann, and my Uncle Steven. He fit that role so well and would often recount the evening he sat in a rocking chair in our grandparents’ living room talking to Auntie’s date, steadily rocking back and forth, fulfilling his brotherly duties by giving the poor guy a death stare and doing what he could to intimidate him. And even as the chair broke and slowly tipped over sideways and he ended up on the floor, he continued to grill the kid about where they were going, what they would be doing, and what time my aunt was expected back home. 



"Dad attended Malden Catholic High School, where he became a phenomenal football player. He then attended UMass Amherst and, like many UMass freshmen, lived in a dorm room in Central that Nana still to this day compares to a prison cell. He earned a walk-on spot on the UMass football team, but somehow managed to absolutely destroy his shoulder during practice and never actually saw any playing time. So one day, in true Peter fashion, he boarded a Boston-bound protest bus and made his way to the admissions office at Northeastern University, where he soon started over as a student in the school of criminal justice and began to answer his calling to a life in public service. It turned out that getting on that bus was probably the best decision he ever made—his co-op experience as a summer special led him to his very first years of police work in the Nantucket Police Department, where he met fellow Officer Kathy Fougere, the love of his life, our mother. Dad married Mom on November 1st, 1985, and soon after this they settled down and planted their roots in the greatest town on earth, the city of Boston. Dad began an honorable 23-year career in the Boston Police Department, while mom somehow found a way to balance a full-time job and life in general with four crazy, beautiful children who were always vying for every last fiber of her attention and sanity. 



"In light of recent national tragedies, there is a Mr. Rogers quote gone viral reminding us all that we should always look for the helpers. Dad was a helper through and through, and that was what made him so phenomenal at his job. His life was his work, his work was his life, and he had a way of so gracefully combining his world at home and his world on the police force so that they always complimented each other, without ever letting one get into the way of the other. I’m sure each one of us kids has a memory of watching the five o’clock news and hearing another scary story about another bad guy somewhere in the city, but resting easy because we knew if nothing else, our Dad would find him and get him off the streets and the entire city, or at least the other five of us at home with him, could once again sleep soundly under his protective watch. He never failed to come to the aid of anyone who needed him, be it family, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, and would at times be highly offended if he was not the first one called to help take care of any situation, no matter what the nature or size. His job was to protect his city, but his compassion and caring nature as a husband, father, brother and son gave him the ability to console that city as well. 



"In a moment of selfishness the other morning, I found myself infuriated, asking God why it had to be him, why our dad, husband, brother and son had to be taken from us. It did not take long for God to answer me. The world we live in today is far from perfect—it is confusing, chaotic, and at times just downright scary for all of us. Looking out at all of you today, there is no doubt he touched countless lives while he was here on earth, but God needed to bring our Dad to be with Him, where he can now do the most good for the greatest number of people, where he can wrap himself around everyone at once and shield them from the all the sorrow, hatred and despair that exists outside these walls, where he can bring light and love to anyone in need, where he can rescue everyone from the bad guys the way he rescued all of us for so long. And as I stand here before all of you, I can almost guarantee he is sitting in his easy chair in the clouds, cigar in his mouth, Fox News on TV, a plate of greasy Chinese food on one side and his Nana’s macaroni, roast beef, and gravy on the other, waiting for the next chance to comfort yet another troubled soul.



"I cannot imagine trying to live life without my Dad by my side. And I guess I am very lucky in that I will never have to know what it would be like to even try. His body may be leaving us, but he exists within every person he has ever served over his lifetime. All I have to do is look at my siblings and I see him shining outward from each and every one of them. I see him in Joe’s ability to calmly step up and take control in any crisis. I see him in Chris’ willingness to come to the aid of anyone who needs it, asking no questions and passing no judgment. And I see him in Maria’s contagious laughter and the way she can brighten the darkest rooms and bring smiles to the saddest faces. As for me, I can only hope I am able to be half as strong a support for my family as he always was for all of us.


 
"His life was too short, but his story is so long, and his legacy will be everlasting.

"Joe, Peter, Detective Gallant, Dad—enjoy your rest. May God hold you the way you held us all your whole life. We love you, we miss you, and we’ll see you soon."