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updated: 1/9/2013 6:26 AM

Gallagher helped grow family insurance business

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  • Jim and Marie Gallagher were honored at Clearbrook's 2011 Shining Star Ball.

    Jim and Marie Gallagher were honored at Clearbrook's 2011 Shining Star Ball.

By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent

The son and namesake of Arthur J. Gallagher, who went on to lead the Itasca-based insurance brokerage and help grow it into one of the largest in the world, has died.

James "Jim" Gallagher passed away Jan. 4 at the age of 91. He had lived in Palatine for more than 50 years.

"He had a major influence on our company's growth strategy in the early years," said Gallagher's nephew, J. Patrick Gallagher Jr., current chairman, president and CEO, "and he helped establish a strong company culture that has served us well for more than half a century."

Gallagher's father founded the insurance brokerage in 1927, and his three sons all joined the company after attending college and serving in World War II.

Jim, the oldest, attended Cornell, but left before graduation to enlist in the Navy as an aviator. He served in the South Pacific as a naval air transport officer until the end of the war, and then joined Gallagher in 1946.

He was named CEO in the early 1960s, but left the company to become president of Inland Life Insurance Company, a startup founded by his father and brothers.

Gallagher returned to his father's business in 1972 to serve as the company's first head of mergers and acquisitions, which helped grow the company exponentially.

His nephew also points to his role in recruiting Sterling Bassett to create Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc., its claims management subsidiary.

"It has grown to become the world's largest property/casualty, third-party claims administrator," Patrick Gallagher says.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. itself is now the world's fourth-largest insurance broker, with more than 13,000 employees and operations in 18 countries.

Officials in the nonprofit sector also mourned Gallagher's passing. He and his wife, Marie, were longtime benefactors to St. Viator High School and Clearbrook, both in Arlington Heights, and more recently to Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan.

The Rev. Charles Bolser, former president of St. Viator High School, said the Gallaghers funded the building of a girls' locker room during the merger between Sacred Heart of Mary High School and St. Viator in 1988.

Marie Gallagher also volunteered in the school's library, which was renamed in her honor in 1995. The couple twice made significant leadership gifts to the school's capital campaigns, beginning in 1994, leading school officials to honored them in 2008 with their highest award, for their "extraordinary commitment to the Viatorian mission."

Gallagher is survived by his children, Linda Daly, Jay (Ann), Kevin (Molly) and Terry (Colleen) Gallagher and Colleen (Bart) Lockhart; as well as 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, at Church of the Holy Spirit, 1451 W. Bode Road in Schaumburg.

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