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gallagherkids

The children of Tim and Jill Gallagher gathered after commencement exercises May 16 at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. From left are Anthony, Ellen, Grady, Paul and Sally. Grady Gallagher graduated and now teaches high school business at Central De Witt High School in De Witt, Iowa.

MOVILLE, Iowa | Counting my blessings, I look back on 2015. I took this picture in May, minutes after son Grady, 22, walked across the stage at Buena Vista University's Siebens Fieldhouse and accepted his diploma, a first for Jill and me to experience as parents.

We'll snap similar pictures in years fast approaching: son Paul is a junior at Buena Vista, daughter Ellen is a sophomore at Simpson College. Both are education majors, following their mother's career path, not mine.

(For many years our kids weren't sure what constituted my career, exactly. Those of you who read me from time to time may side with the kids.)

From a career standpoint, I'll remember 2015 primarily for the Journal's 50-day series "Vietnam: Service With Honor." I learned something from every human-interest profile in the seven-week series and felt like I'd made a friend with Dennis Grant, Jim Ashmore, Maynard Ravnsborg, Oliver Fenceroy and Don Stevens, five Vietnam War veterans I had the privilege to meet and write about.

I was proud of the work I did, and proud of the work done by the rest of our staff, many of whom joined me to open the exhibit with our fantastic partners at the Betty Strong Encounter Center on Sioux City's riverfront.

Personal and professional lines blurred a bit when it came to family. It does, sometimes. I remember writing about an error that son Anthony, a junior at Woodbury Central High School, committed at second base in Remsen, Iowa. I announced and might have detailed in print a pop-up that Sally, a freshman at Woodbury Central, dropped in a softball game.

Amid those bobbles arose accomplishments, though, quiet and ordinary for those not directly involved. Anthony participated in four sports and picked up his license and his first job. Sally earned her first varsity uniform and has since added two others.

Paul earned a basketball spot at Buena Vista. Ellen flew on an airplane for the first time while participating in basketball at Simpson College. They scored, assisted and rebounded, trading high-fives with new friends along the way. They also turned it over and got beaten by their opponents from time to time.

And, thankfully, they remembered how to get to and from class and the library.

Grady capped his collegiate basketball career by hoisting the Iowa Conference Championship trophy after a near-perfect team victory on a chilly night at the University of Dubuque. Jill and I made the 245-mile drive back from Dubuque that evening, running on fumes they call adrenaline.

As we approached the home stretch that night we caught sight of a dirt mover scraping Mother Earth north of Highway 20, just west of Correctionville. The clock read 1:45 a.m. This two-lane road, I realized, will finally become a four-lane highway before our current high schoolers graduate from college.

Not long after this epiphany of sorts, Grady interviewed and was offered a job to teach high school business at Central De Witt in De Witt, Iowa, where my dad, Don Gallagher, resided for a four-year stretch some 60 years ago.

I was driving on a sunny afternoon in April when Grady delivered the good news. I can't remember if I was on two lanes or four. I remember this: I honked the horn and counted my blessings.

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