Feb. 19, 2019 - Fr. George A. Gallarelli, SJ, was called to eternal life on Feb. 18, 2019. Fr. Gallarelli died peacefully at 10:50 p.m., at Campion Health Center and was 91 years old.
George Gallarelli was born in the Charlestown section of Boston, on Nov. 25, 1927, the fifth of six children of John and Josephina (Pingiaro) Gallarelli. His father had emigrated from Foggia, on the southern Adriatic coast of Italy, and worked as a skilled chocolate maker for Schrafft’s, a well-known Boston candy manufacturer. He was proud of his Italian roots and the family spoke Italian at home. Fr. Gallarelli’s mother, one of 22 children, came from a prosperous farming family in Viganó, a village near Milan, in the rich soil of the Lombardy plain.
Fr. Gallarelli attended public schools, which in Boston at the time were scarcely to be distinguished from Catholic schools, as most of the teachers and administrators were Catholic. He wanted to be an accountant, so he went to the Boston High School of Commerce. When he graduated, in 1943, he was drafted into the army.
Because of his accounting skills the army sent him to Nome, Alaska, where lend-lease planes were being refueled on their way to Russia. There he got to know Jesuits who visited to say Mass on bases which had no regular chaplains.
When he was discharged, he entered Northeastern University to study business. He regularly attended Mass at St. Gabriel’s, the Passionist monastery in Brighton, west of downtown, and one day he got into a conversation with one of the Passionists about a possible vocation and his own uncertainty. He had considered the Jesuits, he said, but all the Jesuits he knew were tall men and he had somehow concluded that they wouldn’t accept someone as short as he was. The sensible Passionist recommended he enroll at Philip Neri, the Jesuit-run school for older men, where he could get to know Jesuits and at the same time take accelerated versions of the Latin and Greek courses that would be required for admission to a seminary.
A year later, in 1950, he entered the novitiate at Shadowbrook. Four years after that he began philosophy studies at Weston College. He spent two of his regency years teaching at Boston College High School and he would gladly have spent a third, so much did he enjoy the experience, but his age led superiors to want to move him ahead in the course of studies. So, he returned to Weston for the usual four years of theology studies. He was ordained a priest in 1962 at Weston. For tertianship he went to Florence, in the land of his family’s origins.
After tertianship he was assigned to Fairfield University in Connecticut (1964-1977), where he would spend much of his working life as a Jesuit. He first had charge of residential life, then took over the supervision of the new campus center, followed by nine years as dean of admissions. At the invitation of a priest friend who was going to be appointed principal at St. Joseph’s, a diocesan high school in nearby Trumbull, George became director of counseling there and spent the next nine years at the school. In 1986, he moved back to Fairfield, this time to the Prep, where he spent the longest assignment of his Jesuit life, 26 years as assistant director of counseling, from 1986 to 2012.
In 2012, he moved to Campion Center. Always a dapper dresser, he would twirl his cane and entertain the nursing staff with his considerable repertoire of Broadway musical hits. But gradually he withdrew into his own world. The nurses allowed him to sit in an imposing chair behind the desk at the first-floor nurses’ station, where he would preside, wordlessly, his earphones relaying a stream of old time show tunes, a beatific smile on his face.
In mid-February, he suddenly declined and died peacefully on Monday evening, Feb. 18, 2019.
Campion Jesuit Cemetery, Weston, MA