Councilman Dromm’s mother, who founded Queens chapter of LGBT advocacy group, dies

Photo courtesy of Daniel Dromm

Mary Audrey Gallagher, a founding member of the Queens chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and mother of Queens Councilman Daniel Dromm, died on Jan. 4 from a major heart attack. She was 85.

Gallagher, who grew up in Long Island City and Rego Park, graduated from St. John’s University with a degree in education, according to a press release sent by Dromm’s office. After teaching in city public schools, she took time off to raise her five children, including Dromm who was elected to City Council in 2009.

Dromm credited his mother with his win and called her his Rose Kennedy, referencing the mother of President John F. Kennedy.

“My beautiful mother was my Rose Kennedy,” Dromm said. “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.”

There will be a wake held today, Jan. 8, from 3 to 8 p.m. at Conway Funeral Home at 82-19 Northern Blvd. in Jackson Heights. The Mass will be held at Blessed Sacrament Church at 34-93 93 St. at 10 a.m. A private cremation will take place thereafter.

Gallagher remained dedicated to educating young people and founded a nursery school after moving to Manhasset, Long Island, with her family. She returned to work after her children grew older and became the director of several city day care centers.

She was instrumental in helping to unionize the directors and after her second marriage, when she moved to Port Jefferson, Gallagher served as the president of the Paraprofessionals Union. She was able to secure a 72 percent pay raise for paraprofessionals during her tenure.

In 1993, Gallagher began to champion LGBT issues. Councilman Dromm, her first son, came out to his family when he was 17 years old. But in 1992, Gallagher came across an article outlining her son’s support for the Children of the Rainbow curriculum, which aimed to teach children to respect the variety of races, ethnicity and sexual orientation of their classmates.

The curriculum was seen as controversial with community leaders, several in Queens, arguing against its implementation.

Gallagher marched in the first Lesbian and Gay Pride Parade in Queens organized by her son in 1993. After marching with PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford, she decided to found a Queens chapter and served as the PFLAG/Queens Hospitality Chairperson for years.

Her last job was teaching elementary school children at P.S. 234 in the Bronx and retired in 2002. After her retirement, she worked a substitute teacher at several Queens schools.

“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.”