Robert F. Gallagher, dentist
by Walter Fox
Robert F. “Bob” Gallagher, 86, a dentist who had maintained a practice in Chestnut Hill for nearly six decades, died Nov. 17 of heart failure at Jefferson Hospital.
An early advocate of preventative dentistry and good nutrition, Dr. Gallagher was one of the first dentists in the Philadelphia area to hire an oral hygienist. Early in his practice he specialized in restorative dentistry, adapting techniques that later would become widely used across the country.
The founder of the Chestnut Hill Dental Group and a leader in his profession, he believed in continuing dental education long before it became mandatory. He served for 15 years on the board of the Pankey Institute, an internationally renowned school for advanced postgraduate dental studies. For his service to the institute, he was honored for exemplary leadership by the L.D. Pankey Dental Foundation.
In 2002 he received the Philadelphia County Dental Society’s Golden Certificate “in recognition of his 50 years of service to the advancement of the art and science of dentistry.”
Dr. Gallagher’s daughter Peggy Vezzosi said her father, who was still seeing patients until he entered the hospital, “loved his work and patients so much that being a dentist was not work to him – he wanted to work until he could not.”
Early in his professional career he volunteered his dental services once a week at clinics in the city.
Longtime residents of Chestnut Hill, Dr. Gallagher and his wife, the former Lynn Donatucci, lived in the Margaret Esherick House designed by architect Louis Kahn before moving to the Hill House apartments in 2008.
Born and raised in Erdenheim, Dr. Gallagher was a graduate of Our Mother of Consolation Parish School, La Salle College High School and what is now La Salle University. He received his degree in dentistry from the School of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Between graduating from high school and attending La Salle College, he served in World War II with the Army Air Corps in the China-Burma-India Theater. After graduating from dental school he was commissioned a captain in the Air Force Reserves.
While studying dentistry, he supported himself and his family by working as a plumber’s assistant, a postal clerk at Philadelphia’s Main Post Office and as a research assistant at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Wyndmoor
Aside from his professional interests, Dr. Gallagher also was an admirer of classic cars and each year attended the Concours d’Elegance, one of the world’s leading car shows in Pebble Beach, Calif.
An avid golfer who played on the La Salle high school team, he was a lifelong member of the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club, where he had been a caddy as young man. He also played on the bridge team at Whitemarsh and at Chestnut Hill Hospital, where he was a staff member.
He also was a member of Sunnybrook Golf Club and the Key Biscayne Yacht Club. He was a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Philadelphia Aviation Country Club.
He was a lifelong member of Our Mother of Consolation Church in Chestnut Hill and, since the early 1970s, a member of St. Agnes Church in Key Biscayne, where he maintained a second residence.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Dr. Gallagher is survived by sons Robin and Patrick; seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Dr. Gallagher’s first wife, Myra Malley Gallagher, preceded him in death.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Nov. 22 at Our Mother of Consolation Church. Memorial donations may be made to the Robert F. Gallagher, D.D.S – 42 Scholarship Fund, La Salle College High School, 8605 Cheltenham Ave., Wyndmoor, PA 19038.
Claire B. Pierce, volunteer
Claire B. Pierce, 96, of Lower Gwynedd, a longtime volunteer at several Chestnut Hill venues, died Nov. 7 at Spring House Estates.
Mrs. Pierce had been a volunteer for 35 years at Chestnut Hill Hospital in the emergency room and on patient floors. She also had worked at the hospital’s Main Street Fair from its inception until 1991 when the event was discontinued, and was a volunteer at Monkey Business, a Chestnut Hill consignment shop that formerly benefited the hospital.
Born in Wilkes Barre, Mrs. Pierce was raised in Mt. Airy. She attended Friends Central Academy and graduated from Germantown High School. She was a member of the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church for more than five decades.
She is survived by a son, Guy C. Pierce, of Blue Bell; sisters Jean Smith and Marion Fuller, of Bethlehem; three grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren. Mrs. Pierce’s husband, Guy C. Pierce Jr., preceded her in death.
A memorial service was held Nov. 23 at the Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church with inurnment in the church’s columbarium. Memorial donations may be made to the church at 8855 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19118. – WF
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