Sleepy Hollow’s protagonist is not, in fact, a lanky schoolmaster who retreated in the face of fear, but rather, a genuine hero who endured the unimaginable almost 80 years ago and spent his lifetime honoring his fallen brethren. THE Legend of Sleepy Hollow is Armando “Chick” Galella. And while they may have shared one similar physical trait (it was said “Chick” was a given his nickname for his chicken legs) that’s about the only thing they had in common.
One of the last remaining Pearl Harbor survivors, Chick served our country for five years in the army leaving as a battalion sergeant major in 53rd Signal Corps. But it wasn’t just that he was a decorated war hero that made him so special. Chick had a way of making everyone feel welcomed, feel important, feel included. Whether championing for the remembrance of his comrades who perished in Pearl Harbor, grand marshalling parades, making the inaugural drive over the Tappan Zee Bridge (twice), or of course-tearing up the dance floor- for almost 101 years, Chick’s zest for life was contagious.
Read more personal rememberances of Chick HERE
Sleepy Hollow’s unofficial mayor, Chick meant something to everyone. For this writer, Chick was a portal to the past. Encounters with Chick were a reminder of my grandfather, another North Tarrytown native and friend of Chick’s, nicknamed Smokey. Chick, Smokey, Slicks, Bouillon, these were the cast of characters I would hear about in the real-life play of the greatest generation. A generation raised through the depression, who came to age in world wars and not only persevered but thrived.
In a time when there’s so much noise about feeling divided, Chick had a way of making us all come together. We were all Americans, we were all Sleepy Hollow residents, we were all friends. He taught us to be proud of our country, proud of our neighbors, proud of our little town. The impression he left on everyone was evident through the attendance of his wake and funeral. Hundreds paid their respects to the Galella family. School children, adorned in red, white, and blue, lined the streets saluting the caravan carrying our great American. 100 flags flown on the SH High School lawn to honor a man who lived enough for 100 lifetimes. Thank you for your service, Sir.