Sid Gally was one of those folks who almost instantly made you feel special. I don't remember the first time we met, but I bet he did. His gift of remembering sometimes took my breath away. He might stop for a moment, clearly working at recollecting the memory, and then solidly share the facts with you. Had he been a gymnast folks would imagined him "nailing" the landing.
He knew Pasadena history partially because he was a Pasadenan through and through. He also had knowledge built on research. Sid was my go to scholar for things Pasadena and Catalina Island. I came to think of Sid as sort of being history incarnate; he lived here for nearly a century.
I got to know Sid as a part of the crew that regularly volunteered in the archives at the Pasadena Museum of History. He, and the others, welcomed me; not as the new kid on the block - which I was - but rather as a colleague and peer. I was another person who loved history and knew that keeping history is a bit like tending a garden. You need be mindful of what is kept and what is weeded. Sometimes you also have to trim back some of the well established plants so that the sunshine will be able to reach the smaller plants. With history focusing on the less-known doesn't take way from the well-known. They got this and they would share research with me that they thought would help with my work.
Sid became a regular columnist for the Pasadena Star News after he was 80. His columns were easy to read; facts presented clearly and in a concise manner. Technically his writing was an avocation, but that was only because he wasn't paid, not because of his approach to his work.
A couple of his closer friends shared that even in his last weeks, when he was strong enough, he would have his electronic tools at his bedside. His iPad was never far removed from him as he would research a story he was planning to write.
Sid knew that I often was researching topics that related to the Latino community. He would share stories with me that he felt would contribute to my work. The segregation that has been a part of Pasadena history is an uncomfortable thing for most of us. I know it was for Sid, but he shared the painful stories of division as well as the pleasant stories because they are a part of our shared history.
I think Sid knew his time with us was becoming short. In his last year he mentioned the story of his great grandmother several times. She had come to Duarte from Texas and had kept a diary. He mentioned it because he valued the meaning of her experience. I think that in his humility he had waited to share a bit of his own history. It is so much like Sid to share another's story rather than his own as one of his final columns.
Sid was pretty darn special. I will miss his smile and laugh - such a warm thing, that. Sid had a welcoming heart. I am thankful that I was one of many who enjoyed his collegial and warm friendship.