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April 18, 2012

Longtime newspaperman Barney Gallagher dies at 90

Whether on the pages of this newspaper of its sister publication The Eagle-Tribune, the stories and photos of Barney Gallagher were a fixture for more than 70 years.

That commitment to providing the people of his hometown their news earned Gallagher the title "Mr. Haverhill."

Cementing that title was Gallagher's loyalty to his city, his desire to make sure Haverhill was recognized for its rich past, dynamic present and hopeful future.

The Barney Gallagher era in Haverhill's news and civic circles has ended. He died April 14 at Penacook Place nursing and rehabilitation home. He was 90.

"Barney Gallagher was a role model, the journalist's journalist," said Tom Vartabedian, a longtime friend and colleague. "He covered the city like a blanket ... With Barney, I think of the three S's — servant, soldier and saint."

It used to be said that Gallagher slept with a police and fire scanner under his pillow. No emergency escaped his attention. He'd be out of bed in an instant to cover a fire in the wee hours of the morning, snapping photos and filling his notebook with information.

One story sums it up: A police station dispatcher radioed a cruiser one day to send it to a reported car accident, but moments later cancelled the cruiser's response. "Barney's there," the dispatcher said. "He said it's just a fender-bender."

Gallagher would have breakfast with the fire chief and neighborhood types. He knew the politicians, but preferred to spend time with people who knew what was happening in the street.

"Barney didn't miss a serious fire or accident in Haverhill if he was in town," said Alan White, editor of The Eagle-Tribune. "He often got there before the police or firefighters. Even veteran reporters were in awe of Barney. Whenever they'd get together and start trading stories about Barney, they'd say, 'I want to grow up to be like that.'"

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