Bill Gallo Sr., who served as the New York Daily News’ sports cartoonist for more than a half-century, died Tuesday, May 10, in a White Plains, N.Y., hospital of emphysema complications at the age of 88. He was the father of National Steeplechase Association Director of Racing Bill Gallo Jr.
Over the course of his 70-year journalism career, the Daily News published more than 15,000 of his cartoons, and he was sending his works to the office until his last days. His final cartoon was published April 19.
He had uncounted friends within the sports community, including Muhammad Ali, and the late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner did not take offense at Gallo’s occasional barbs. He also was a columnist for the Daily News and covered his favorite sport, boxing.
“He knew everybody, and everybody knew Bill,” boxing historian Bert Sugar told the Daily News. “He was probably the second-most outstanding symbol of New York, other than the Statue of Liberty. He was a throwback, yet always au courant. He straddled both worlds, old and new.” Sugar nominated his long-time friend for a Medal of Honor at Ellis Island. Gallo was to receive the honor on May 7.
“Bill Gallo was a great artist but an even greater guy,” said Daily News Editor in Chief Kevin R. Convey. “He had an eye for the humor and absurdity of life, a knack for capturing the city and its characters and a heart as big as the place he called home. We’ll miss him terribly, and we’ll never forget him.”
The son of immigrants from Spain, Gallo was born in Manhattan and followed his late father into journalism as a copy boy at the Daily News in 1941. His work there was interrupted by World War II, in which he served in the Marines and was involved in the battle for Iwo Jima in the Pacific.
After the war, he returned to work at the Daily News. “The News is the only life I ever really knew once I got back from the war,” he told columnist Mike Lupica. “And it’s the only life I ever wanted.”
He married Dolores Rodriguez in 1950 and became a full-time artist at the newspaper. His first published cartoon was of boxer Kid Gavilan, and he was promoted to the sports cartoonist’s position in 1960.
His empathy for the underdog led to the creation of recurring characters such as Basement Bertha, the archetype of a long-suffering Mets fan, and Yuchie, one of life’s endearing losers. His final cartoon depicted Basement Bertha window-shopping for an outfit to wear in case she received a last-minute invitation to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in late April.
In addition to Bill Gallo Jr., he is survived by his wife, Dolores; his son, Greg, the former sports editor at the New York Post; a brother, Henry; and four granddaughters, Stephanie, Amy, Marianna, and Isabella; and a great-granddaughter, Alexa Rose.
A wake will be held from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel at 1076 Madison Ave. A funeral mass is scheduled for Friday, May 13, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with eulogies by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, author Pete Hamill, and Greg Gallo. A private burial will be held at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, N.Y. Memorial contributions may be made to Ring 8, a veteran boxers association that assists disabled fighters.