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Shelter Island Reporter obituary: Carol W. Galligan

Carol W. Galligan, Ph.D., (née Carol-Jeanne Wolfe), of Shelter Island, died peacefully at home on Oct. 16, 2020, a few weeks short of her 89th birthday, from serious injuries sustained in a fall in June.

Born Nov. 6, 1931, to an Irish-American family in New York City, Carol married at age 18 but still earned her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Barnard College and Masters and Ph.D from Adelphi University in the 1960s, not something many women her age did. 

Carol and her then-husband, attorney Arthur J. Galligan, raised their two children, Jessica and Zachary, in New York City. When Carol was 36, she and her husband divorced; however, they stayed friends until the day he died, teaching their children that family matters most.

Shortly after her divorce, Carol discovered Shelter Island. Renting first in 1969 for a few weeks in the summer, she eventually bought an acre of land on the edge of Mashomack and built her own home. A city girl, Carol traveled to the Island every chance she could, putting down roots (literally and figuratively), taking her children to watch hurricanes on the beach, waking them up to watch meteor showers in the middle of the night, and forging treasured lifelong friendships. Eventually, she moved full-time to the Island in 2004.

Carol was one of a kind and a force of nature. She was a clinical psychologist, professor, playwright, author, and in later years, a feature writer and regular garden columnist for the Reporter. Her domestic drama “Out of Purgatory,” starring Felicity Huffman, was produced in 1993 in San Diego. A second play “Killing Louise” was produced Off-Broadway in 2003.

In 2005, Carol began writing the Island Profile series for the Reporter, and thereafter wrote and directed “Voices from the Vault,” an annual series of staged readings at Havens House based on letters she found at the Shelter Island Historical Society. Eventually, encouraged by then-Councilman Eddie Brown, Carol merged the readings into “Island Voices 1655-2010”, a book she wrote and sold to benefit the Shelter Island Library.  

Carol was always politically minded. While working for The Floating Hospital of St. John’s Guild, she left work early to hear a young, unknown preacher named Martin Luther King, Jr. speak to an almost empty auditorium. As a CUNY professor in 1968, Carol marched during the Columbia University demonstrations in her cap and gown. When asked whether she had any regrets, she said “No, you have to stand up.”

In 2018, Carol wrote a nonfiction book called “Collision Course: The Vatican, the Nuns of America and the Meaning of Obedience,” about progressive American nuns who rebelled against the Vatican. She spent years interviewing and befriending these nuns, and the book, which she finally published at the age of 86, was her great passion project.

Carol threw the best Christmas parties, and was a proud member of the committee working to restore Taylor’s Island. She was a lifelong feminist, patriot and political junkie, and a keen observer of American politics. She joined the Shelter Island DAR and the League of Women Voters, and was one of the founders of the Shelter Island Bucks.

She worked out religiously at the FIT Center, ran in the Shelter Island 10K at the age of 70, and marched in numerous Memorial Day parades. One of her final acts was to sign her absentee ballot for the 2020 election.

Carol is survived by her daughter, Jessica (James Goldsmith), her son, Zachary, her grandchildren, Connor, Brian and Katherine Goldsmith, her nieces, Sally Jerace and Tracy Bays, and Stephanie Sareyani of Shelter Island whom Carol loved as one of her own.

A celebration of Carol’s life will be held next summer on Shelter Island. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Shelter Island Library, 37 North Ferry Road, Shelter Island, NY 11964.