By Bill Parry
The Queens LGBT community is mourning the loss of a beloved figure. Mary Audrey Gallagher, the mother of City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and a founding member of PFLAG/Queens, died last Thursday after suffering a heart attack. She was 85.
“My beautiful mother was my Rose Kennedy,” Dromm said. “My mother knocked on over 1,500 doors to help get me 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 grew up in the Blissville section of Long Island City, which was home to many of New York City’s Irish immigrant population. Her family moved to Rego Park, and Gallagher attended St. Margaret’s Elementary School in Middle Village and went to high school at the Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica. After graduating from St. John’s University, she married Warren Dromm and gave birth to her first of five children, Daniel, who grew up to be openly gay.
In 1993, Gallagher decided to help her son and PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford organize a Queens chapter of PFLAG, a support, education and advocacy group for parents, families and friends of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“Audrey was so incredibly supportive of her son Danny, and I will always remember her fondly,” PFLAG/Queens President Anne Quashen said. “She and 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 she will be sorely missed.”
Gallagher served as the PFLAG/Queens hospitality chair for years and was seen at most major LGBT events in the borough. She offered support not only to her gay son but to all LGBT people who entered her life.
“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,” PFLAG/Queens Outreach and Media Director Larry Nelson said, adding, “The chapter will miss the love and devotion that she shared with others over the years.”
Astoria resident Brendan Fay, co-founder of the inclusive St. Pat’s for All Parade and member of the Lavender and Green Alliance, said the borough’s LGBT community became Gallagher’s extended family.
“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,” Fay said. “She warmed a room with her stories, humor and a song. 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.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr