Hundreds turn out for N.B. Mountie's funeral

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Woodstock, N.B., on Thursday to pay their respects to RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who was working with local police in Haiti when he died in the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The funeral service for Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who died in the earthquake in Haiti on Jan. 12, was held at St. Gertrude's Roman Catholic Church in Woodstock, N.B. ((CBC))

Hundreds of people lined Woodstock, N.B., streets on Thursday afternoon to observe the regimental parade for RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who was working with local police in Haiti when he died in the Jan. 12 earthquake.

An estimated 500 officers and members of the military from across the province and as far away as Maine surrounded the hearse as it proceeded from the Woodstock community college toward St. Gertrude's Roman Catholic Church for Gallagher's funeral, with bagpipes playing in the background.

The small church in the western New Brunswick town filled quickly to its 400-person capacity with mourners including Premier Shawn Graham, but organizers set up a video broadcast at the Carleton Civic Centre for the overflow of an estimated 1,200 people looking to pay their respects. Buses were available to transport them.

The RCMP and Moncton Wesleyan Church also joined forces to offer a simulcast of the funeral on three large screens, which attracted about 1,000 others.

Before the service, Sgt. Gary Cameron, a colleague and friend of Gallagher's, described him as the type of person who would do anything for anyone. They used to sail together, he said.

A photograph of Gallagher on the water was on the cover of the funeral program.

Mark Gallagher's widow, Lisa, and her two children, Heather and Shane, share a lighthearted moment during the service. ((CBC))

His wife of 30 years, Lisa Gallagher, who shared several light-hearted stories about their life together, said he loved to sail.

She said she is sure he is at the helm of a 40-foot vessel with all the sails up, with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a bag of potato chips, which he regularly kept stashed under the nightstand in their bedroom.

When he's not sailing, "he is with each of us, encouraging us to dig deeper for patience … for strength … for the determination to make a difference," she said.

"His gentle spirit will always guide us to do the right thing."

She described her husband as the kindest, most patient man she had ever met. He had called the mission in Haiti one of the most important experiences in his life, but she said his commitment to building safe communities left him conflicted during his last visit home at Christmas.

"He had tremendous trouble reconciling our lifestyle to the misery he saw in Haiti. He wanted to return to Haiti, but he didn't want to leave me in Northampton alone during the winter months."

Humanitarian and world-changer

RCMP chaplain Rev. Karl Ingersoll also gave a remembrance, describing his friend Gallagher as a humanitarian at heart and a world-changer.

"Mark turned me into a name dropper. I don't know how many times over the 20-plus years I've known him that I'd say to someone, 'I know Mark Gallagher, he's one of my best friends.' But you know what? That's the only kind of friend Mark had," Ingersoll said.

"There is this beautiful legacy he leaves, challenging everyone of us to look beyond ourselves, to aspire to serve a greater cause, one that causes us inconvenience sometimes, one that requires a degree of sacrifice sometimes, one that lives beyond every one of us and continues to impact others."

Rev. Bill Brennan, who presided over the service, described Gallagher as having "acquired a deep wisdom," and living a "rich and fruitful professional life," with "exceptional compassion, courage and professionalism."

He said he hoped others would be inspired by Gallagher and listen to God's invitation to us and respond "Here I am Lord," as he did.

Prayers were offered for Gallagher's wife and his grown children, Heather and Shane, that they find "continued support, comfort and peace."

A moment of silence was also observed for RCMP Chief Supt. Doug Coates, also killed during the quake. Coates, who lived in Gatineau, Que., and was based at the RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, had devoted much of his career to making Haiti a more peaceful and stable place.

Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who spent many years in Moncton as a police officer, coach and mentor to young people, had been training police as part of a UN mission in Haiti. (RCMP)

An open reception followed at the gymnasium of Woodstock High School.

Gallagher, 50, spent many years in Moncton as a police officer, coach and mentor to young people.

Robert Kennie, events co-ordinator at Moncton Wesleyan Church, said the church is honoured to open its doors for this event.

"It's really important that, as a community … we rally around Mark and his family and show the support for all the things that he's done for the greater Moncton area," Kennie said.

With another avenue to pay their respects, RCMP Const. Chantal Farrah said, people can feel closer to Gallagher and his family.

"The funeral in Woodstock, the church is small, so it's really only family and close friends that can attend the funeral over there," Farrah said.

"So having the service here at the Wesleyan Church is the next best thing. So you can take part in everything that's going to be happening in Woodstock, here in greater Moncton, without travelling."

The Moncton church can hold 1,800 people.

Brother a police sergeant

Among the mourners in Woodstock were a group of 25 officers and dispatchers from the Bathurst police force, for whom Gallagher's brother, Eugene, serves as a sergeant.

The Bathurst contingent was among those who participated in the ceremonial march to the church.

Gallagher's body was uncovered Jan. 14 in the rubble left by the quake in Port-au-Prince. He had been training police in Haiti's capital as part of a United Nations mission called Project Co-ordination.

Twenty-one Canadians are confirmed to have died in the quake. 

Gallagher worked as an RCMP spokesman in New Brunswick and, more recently, in Halifax before heading to Haiti in July 2009.

He came home for Christmas and had just returned to Haiti when the 7.0-magnitude quake struck.