Work ethic never failed
April 24, 2006 - Perhaps taking advice offered in the old Beatles song, “Hey Jude” Rio Oso native Judith “Jude” Gallagher has taken a sad song and made it better.
Gallagher - her nickname is pronounced Judy despite the spelling - has risen high in the ranks of U.S. Navy civilian employees, overcoming the polio she contracted at age 6 and surviving two bouts with cancer.
Late last year, Gallagher received the annual Outstanding Employee with a Disability award from the Department of the Navy, an experience that still has her feeling awestruck.
Gallagher has worked for the past 30 years at the Port Hueneme naval facility in Oxnard, rising from clerk to director of the Logistics Acquisition Management Division, where she oversees an annual budget of more than $500 million.
Not bad for a little girl from Rio Oso, she has to admit.
Gallagher attributes her success in life to the work ethic she learned on her parents' 3,500-acre peach and walnut ranch - and to being treated just the same as her six brothers and sisters despite her disability.
That's the way it always was, recalls her father, Robert Gallagher.
After spending seven months in the San Francisco hospital where she was treated for the polio that paralyzed her left leg, the first stop for little Judith was a brace shop, he says.
Using crutches and with her leg in a brace, she walked back to the family car - up a steep San Francisco hill, he said.
Judith's grandmother, who was waiting in the car, didn't say anything but later asked, “How could you do that?” he recalled
“Well, we just tried to teach her that she had to realize what she had to cope with,” he said.
When it came to chores on the ranch, the attitude was, “You can and you will,” Judith Gallagher recalls.
But the expectations were accompanied by support.
“My family has always been there for me,” she says.
Gallagher says she's never been angry or bitter about the polio, which she contracted just three months before the first vaccine for the disease became available. As a child, she never considered herself disabled or abnormal, she says.
Brother Tim Gallagher says he's never heard her complain about anything.
“I'm sure she has her days. But she never shows it,” he says.
After graduating from East Nicolaus High School in 1964, she earned an associate degree at what was then called Yuba Junior College, got married and had a daughter.
Later, as a single mother, she attended night school for seven years at the University of California at Santa Barbara while working days at Port Hueneme. Her bachelor's degree is in political science, psychology and social sciences.
Gallagher says she'll retire this year and return to Northern California. She wants to be a volunteer practitioner of Reiki, a Japanese stress reduction treatment that she credits with helping her though cancer treatments, and perhaps start a business producing PowerPoint videos.
Robert Gallagher, a former Sutter County supervisor, says he's always been impressed by his daughter's accomplishments.
“I was amazed what she did after she was afflicted. I'm still amazed at what she's done,” he says.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Rob Young can be reached at 749-4710. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.