Former Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, when he was in office, once sought to celebrate a hometown hero who had fallen on some hard times, then got his life back together.
The event was going to cost some $30,000, maybe a bit more. Henderson mentioned the possible event and cost to Sam Galloway, longtime owner and operator of Sam Galloway Ford in Fort Myers — and an elder statesmen in local civic and business circles. Not only was Galloway generous, says Henderson, but he also shunned red tape and government bureaucracy. “He didn’t like to jibber-jabber,” Henderson says.
Galloway quickly, and quietly, offered to cover the cost of the event, Henderson recalls. The event never came to be, for other reasons, but Galloway stepping up behind the scenes wasn’t unusual. “He was everyone’s go-to guy,” Henderson says.
Sam Galloway Jr. died in his sleep March 3. He was 76.
“He always went out of his way to help people, especially when no one really knew about it,” says Bob Himschoot, president of Fort Myers-based wastewater and septic systems firm Crews Environmental and a friend of Galloway’s since the pair were in middle school in Fort Myers. “He was extremely honest and loyal, almost loyal to a fault.”
Galloway was the public face of his Ford dealership — he either rode in or drove his beloved 1906 Ford Model N for more than 70 years in the annual Edison Parade of Light. And he was just as passionate about the Community Cooperative, one of the leading organizations in Greater Fort Myers that provides assistance to the homeless and people who struggle with hunger. Galloway co-founded the organization in 1984 with some friends from area churches. That was when it was called the Fort Myers Soup Kitchen, and Galloway and his buddies made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and passed them out from the trunk of his car.
Galloway’s annual Sam Galloway Jr. and Friends Soup Kitchen Benefit has raised millions of dollars for the cause since 2002. “He was always interested in the statistics, in the data, in who he could help,” says Southwest Florida Community Foundation CEO Sarah Owen, who was CEO of the Cooperative from 2005 to 2011. “The Cooperative was central to his life.”
Born in Miami, Galloway moved with his family to Fort Myers when he was a young boy. He graduated from Fort Myers High School in 1963, according to his obituary. He met his sweetheart and love of his life, Kathy Kellum, at Betty Black’s Ballroom Dance Studio and they married in 1964.
The Ford business was a family affair: Galloway’s grandparents moved from Miami in 1927 and purchased Lee Motors in downtown Fort Myers. In 1963, Lee Motors became Sam Galloway Ford and relocated to Colonial Boulevard and U.S. 41; the dealership is now off Boy Scout Road in Fort Myers. Galloway started at the dealership in high school, sweeping floors, and learned the business by working in every department from service to sales. In 1971, Galloway, then 27, became the country’s youngest Ford dealer.
While the Ford dealership and Cooperative were mainstays in Galloway’s life, so too was his family — he and Kathy Kellum Galloway raised three children and have five grandchildren — and his church. He attended First Presbyterian in downtown Fort Myers since childhood. He often played the piano there, or really anywhere he could find a piano, says Owen, including the Galloway Ford conference room. His family says Galloway was especially fond of Irving Berlin, and, according to his obituary, “there was never an event Sam hosted that did not have God Bless America included.”
Working closely with Galloway at the Cooperative for six years, Owen says in addition to his fun, musical side, she learned a lot about business from him. One lesson that stands out: constant improvement. “He was always looking for innovation,” Owen says. “He was always looking for a new way to sell something or an idea.” Read more