2018-01-10 / Features

Dromm’s Mom, A PFLAG Founder, Dies


Mary Audrey Gallagher arm-in-arm with her son, NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm. Mary Audrey Gallagher arm-in-arm with her son, NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm. Mary Audrey Gallagher, the mother of NYC Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst) and a founding member of PFLAG/Queens, a support, education and advocacy group for parents, families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, died peacefully Thursday after spending a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. The cause of death was a massive heart attack. She was 85 years old.

“My beautiful mother was my Rose Kennedy,” said Dromm, a reference to former President Kennedy’s mother who often appeared on the campaign trail with him. “My mother knocked on over 1,500 doors to help me get elected, wrote a beautiful letter to seniors in the district and was constantly seen campaigning with me. Everywhere I went people always asked me about my mother. I truly believe she was the main reason I won.”

Gallagher was born in Brooklyn on September 6, 1932. She spent her first seven years in Blissville, a small section of Long Island City, which was home to many of New York’s Irish immigrant population. Later her family moved to Rego Park. Gallagher attended St. Margaret elementary school in Middle Village and went to The Mary Louis Academy high school in Jamaica. She graduated with the highest award, the Character, Loyalty and Spirit of Study Award.

After graduating from St. John’s University, she married Warren Dromm and later gave birth to her first child, Daniel Dromm, who is openly gay. She later had four other children: Lori, Marybeth, John and Joseph. Gallagher was the captain of the cheerleading squad at St. John’s University and was involved in many of the school’s extracurricular activities. Gallagher studied to become a teacher and taught in the NYC public schools for a few years before taking time off to raise her children.

Gallagher and the family moved to Manhasset, Long Island. While there she started her own nursery school. She became involved in the St. John’s University Alumni Association and once booked Bess Meyerson, the former Miss America and then NYC Consumer Affairs Commissioner, as a guest speaker.

As her children grew older, Gallagher returned to work as the director of several of the city’s day care centers. Gallagher, along with three of her colleagues, helped unionize the directors. She successfully fought to get the directors membership in the Council of Supervisors and Administrators.

After her second marriage, she moved to Port Jefferson, Long Island. There, again, she became involved in union organizing, this time serving as the president of the paraprofessionals union. Gallagher was able to get the paraprofessionals a 72% pay raise.

In 1992, Gallagher wanted to move back to Flushing. While she was looking in Newsday at apartment listings, she came across a full-page article about her son. The article stated that he was gay and that he was actively supporting the Children of the Rainbow curriculum, a curriculum that taught tolerance of lesbian and gay people. While Gallagher had known since Dromm was 17 that he was gay, the article was still quite shocking to her.

In 1993, Gallagher marched in Queens’ first Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade which was organized by Dromm. She marched with the PFLAG NYC Chapter and PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford in that parade and heard the applause from onlookers. It was then that Gallagher decided to help organize the Queens PFLAG Chapter along with Dromm and Manford.

Gallagher returned to teaching full time and was assigned to P.S. 234 in the South Bronx. She thoroughly enjoyed her tenure at that school, teaching some of New York’s most needy children. She remained there until her retirement in 2002. For the next few years Gallagher worked as a substitute teacher in several Queens schools.

Gallagher served as PFLAG/Queens Hospitality Chair for many years. She was seen at most major LGBT events in Queens. She offered support not only to her gay son but to all LGBT people who entered her life. Gallagher was grateful for the existence of PFLAG and believed that it was important for parents of LGBT people to get involved. She believed that parents have the ability to talk to other parents about their LGBT children in a way that others cannot. Because of this, she hoped that PFLAG would always be there for support, to educate and to advocate on behalf of all our LGBT children and families.

“Audrey was so incredibly supportive of her son Danny, and I will always remember her fondly,” said PFLAG/Queens President Anne Quashen. “She and her Danny were very close. She was one of his main supporters since he came out to her at age 17. Audrey had a wonderful way of speaking with parents and children alike. They felt that they could really open up to her, thanks to her warmth and kindness. Audrey was one-of-a-kind, and will be sorely missed.”

“I had the honor of first meeting Audrey back in July of 1993 in the home of PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford, where a group of Queens residents got together to form a chapter of the organization,” said PFLAG/Queens Outreach and Media Director Larry Nelson. “The group consisted of myself, Jeanne Manford, a couple named Claire and Lenny Vogel who had a lesbian daughter, and finally Daniel Dromm and his mother, Mary Audrey Gallagher. From the get-go, Audrey was a very outspoken parent who wanted to show the world the unconditional love she had for her gay son. She was PFLAG/Queens’ hospitality chair and made people feel welcome. The chapter will miss the love and devotion that she shared with others over the years.”

Brendan Fay of the Lavender and Green Alliance and St. Pat’s For All said, “In Ireland we have a song: ‘a mother’s love is a blessing.’ Well, this is very true as we remember Mary Audrey Gallagher. Her support and embrace of her gay son Danny (Dromm) extended to his friends and the LGBT community of Queens. We became her extended family. She was a familiar face and welcome presence at every Queens Pride parade, St. Pat’s For All parade, and Queens PFLAG gatherings for the last quarter-century. She had a hug and a word of encouragement for everyone, but especially for those who needed it most: parents and LGBT children struggling in a world of prejudice. She warmed a room with her stories, humor and a song. Her love of Irish music is reflected in her story of naming Danny after her favorite Irish ballad, ‘Danny Boy.’ She told stories of her own Irish American upbringing and her years as a New York City public school teacher. Audrey was a strong supporter of our Irish LGBT group, the Lavender and Green Alliance, and our efforts to march in the Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade. When we held our first St. Pat’s For All parade in 2000 and letters appeared in Queens newspapers from conservative members of her own family, she responded and spoke her mind and heart. She was there at all of our St. Pat’s For All parades, and celebrated with us when Lavender and Green Alliance marched in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade for the first time on March 17, 2016. When the history of the LGBT movement in Queens is told, there will be the story of a community activist and gay man Danny Dromm and of an Irish American mother, Mary Audrey Gallagher, who embraced us and our cause for equality as her own. As the Irish phrase says, ‘Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís’ – her like will never be seen again.”

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