Judge Eleanor Gallagher retired at the end of December after serving the Town of Marlborough for 39 years. In 2014 the chamber at Town Hall was named the Honorable Eleanor Gallagher Courtroom.
Gallagher started out as a volunteer in the Police Department for two years helping to organize their filing system. She followed this by serving three years as a police dispatcher and eventually as a Court Clerk – the first ever for the town – and stayed in that position for another three years. She filled a vacancy as a Judge for a year before running and winning the position in her own right, where she served uninterrupted for 31 years.
Gallagher is a native of Brooklyn and moved to Highland when she was a teenager. She married John Esmond Gallagher in 1960 – she called him ‘Jack’ – and they settled in Marlborough in 1963. The couple was married for 35 years until his passing in 1995. They had two sons, Jack and Rod who live in North Carolina and Massachusetts, respectively.
Gallagher said after serving as Court Clerk “I realized I could do that job myself.” She said the first time she approached her party upon an opening on the bench, but they chose a male for the position instead. In 1984 when another judge left before the end of his term, she again sought the position, by this time having taken the necessary training and passing the test to be a judge.
“I had that in my back pocket, so to speak, so when I asked to be considered for an interim appointment I had all the qualifications at that time,” she said.
Gallagher said she felt very qualified for the job.
“I have the personality and temperament to be able to sit, observe, listen, follow the law and have compassion and understanding,” she said. “I really felt I was contributing to my community.”
Gallagher said a wide variety of cases have come before her during her long career: “some were very comical, some were very serious.” She was often called in the middle of the night to preside at arraignments, usually for felony cases or for domestic disputes that involved requests for Orders of Protection.
“The magic hour for a nighttime call is 2:45 a.m., many for DWIs and domestics,” she recalled.
Gallagher said during her tenure “95% of the people – win, lose or draw – left with a good feeling about the [judicial] system. A few percent could go either way and another couple of percent that hated you no matter what.” She said sometimes she was able to influence a young person’s life and more than once, long after adjudication, a family member thanked her for helping their loved one find the right path.
“That was very, very gratifying for me,” she said.
Several years ago Gallagher and her clerk Michelle Edwards worked diligently to bring fiscal order to the court’s books after it was discovered that a former clerk had failed to keep accurate documentation of all transactions and in some cases had actually destroyed numerous money orders from people who had paid fines.
“Thousands of dollars that could have come into the coffers, didn’t come in,” she said.
As a member of the “newly retired,” Gallagher said she is trying to get used to not working her usual schedule, which was often six days a week as well as overseeing late night arraignments.
“Let me put it this way, it’s weird…that is kind of an awakening for me to know I don’t have to get up on a Saturday to go to work,” she said.
Gallagher plans to spend time visiting her children and “I have more time to take care of myself personally and to take care of my home.”
Gallagher said she always wanted to “go out on top and on my terms; I don’t regret it at all…I was honored and privileged to serve this community for that many years. It was very gratifying to me.”
By Mark Reynolds