Melvin Gallagher

Melvin Gallagher (Courtesy Waterloo Courier)

Melvin James (Regan) Gallagher


Melvin James (Regan) Gallagher
22 YOA
Clark Super 100 Service Station
210 Falls Ave.
Waterloo, IA
Black Hawk County
January 3, 1959


By Jody Ewing

His young adult life had started out with a few uncertainties, but 22-year-old Melvin James Gallagher was finding his footing and making plans for what he hoped would be a bright future.

He’d been deeply in love with two different women — Gloria and Patricia — and wanted to settle down with a good job and start raising a family. He’d first been engaged to Patricia, but after much soul searching, realized it was Gloria with whom he wanted to spend his life. He and Patricia broke off their engagement, and a short time after they went their separate ways, Patricia discovered she was pregnant with Gallagher’s child.

Melvin and Gloria became engaged, and were to marry the following year on January 10, 1959. Some time during their engagement, Gloria also became pregnant.

In the interim, Gallagher, who’d recently been discharged after serving with the Army, started working at the Clark Super 100 service station located at 210 Falls Ave. in Waterloo. He submitted an application for employment with the Waterloo Police Department, and also applied for entry to a chiropractic school. Now that that Army vet would have a wife and child, there would be expenses and he’d be leaving his mother and step-father’s home to make one of his own with his new family.

He never got the chance to marry his girl. Never got the opportunity to meet his unborn children. Never got the time to fulfill any of his dreams.

Gallagher Likely Knew His Killer

He’d been working at the service station just six months when, on a bitterly cold Saturday morning about 5:15 a.m., he was killed by a shotgun blast to the head as he prepared to end his night-shift. On January 3, 1959, exactly one week before his wedding day, he lay dying on a filling station floor behind frost-covered windows — his left hand still in his pocket — as his life and all he’d ever hoped for ebbed away and vanished.

Black Hawk County in Iowa
Black Hawk County in Iowa
Waterloo in Black Hawk CountyWaterloo in Black Hawk County

One theory never fully discounted by police was that Gallagher knew his murderer.

Clark Company officials said their employees had been told never to resist hold-up attempts. When talking casually with customers or friends, Gallagher frequently stood with his left hand in his pocket, which led investigators to believe the Army vet had been visiting with someone he knew.

And, although $179 was missing from the station, an undisclosed amount was left behind — either not seen or not wanted by the killer. Money, officials said, may not have been the objective.

On February 19, Patricia gave birth to the couple’s son, Michael.

Later that year, Gloria gave birth to the couple’s twin daughters.

Police steadily followed up on a number of leads; they all dead-ended and led nowhere.

“But that’s all they were,” said Chief Harry Krieg in a January 3, 1960 Waterloo Courier article. “We had plenty of leads, but virtually nothing in the way of real clues.”

Scores of persons were questioned, Krieg said, and several were given lie detector tests, but police never found enough real evidence with which they could work.

Hope briefly emerged when a man wanted on a check charge in Waterloo was found in another state, a shotgun in his vehicle. Several circumstances led officials to believe he may have been connected with the homicide, but the man came up with an airtight alibi for the night of Gallagher’s murder.

Sisters Offer Reward

A year after Gallagher’s murder, two of his sisters — Mrs. Warren Nissen of Waterloo and Mrs. S.J. De Blasis of Washington, D.C. — offered a $750 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for his death. The reward was to remain in effect for six months.

Courtesy Waterloo Courier, Jan. 3, 1960

Courtesy Waterloo Courier, Jan. 3, 1960

The sisters said the killing came so violently and unexpectedly that it never seemed real.

“I feel if we could only know who did this thing, it wouldn’t be so hard to sleep at night,” Mrs. De Blasis told the Waterloo Courier on the one-year anniversary of her brother’s murder.

The Washington sister had been vacationing with her husband in the West Indies when the killing took place. Back in Waterloo, Mrs. Nissen spent most of that day trying to contact her sister by telephone to relay the tragic news.

“It was a horrible day,” Mrs. Nissen said in the Courier interview. “Besides this terrible thing happening, the phone kept ringing every few minutes as the operators tried to find my sister.”

The sisters said their brother was the happy-go-lucky type and liked everybody he met, even though he seldom made real close friends.

Gallagher’s sisters and police said they knew that offering the reward was strictly a shot in the dark, but were hopeful that renewed interest in the murder might turn up some small clue not yet known. It was not to be.

About Melvin Gallagher

Melvin Gallagher was born May 19, 1936, to Mary V. (McGraw) Regan and James F. Gallagher.

Melvin Gallagher headstoneCourtesy photo Kathy Christensen,
Melvin Gallagher was laid to rest in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Waterloo.

Survivors included his fiancée, Gloria, and their unborn twin daughters; an unborn son, Michael; his mother and step-father, Mr. and Mrs. James Regan of 219-1/2 W. 6th Street, Waterloo; and three sisters, Mrs. Warren Nissen of 825 Wisner Drive, Mrs. S.J. (Gertrude) De Blasis of Washington, D.C., and a half-sister, Mrs. Dave Heideman, also residing at 219-1/2 W. 6th St. in Waterloo.

A parish Rosary was held at 8 p.m. the Monday following the murder at the Oppold Funeral Home in Waterloo. Funeral services were held January 6, 1959 at 9 a.m. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, with burial in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. A Waterloo veterans organization conducted the rites.

Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers Offers Reward for Information

On January 2, 2014, Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers announced that they are offering a reward for information in Melvin Gallagher’s cold case murder.

Launched in June 2012, Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers’ goal is to help keep Cedar Valley neighborhoods safer. The program allows citizens to report suspicious and criminal behavior while allowing them to remain anonymous. No calls are traced, and if a tip leads to an arrest the caller is eligible for a $1500 cash reward.

CV Crime Stoppers believes “someone other than the criminal has information that can help solve a crime,” and works to help the community overcome two major issues in crime reporting: fear of reprisal, and the reluctance to get involved.

Anyone with information about Melvin Gallagher’s unsolved murder is asked to call the Waterloo Police Department at 319-291-4340 ext 3 or Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers, 855-300-TIPS (8477). Tips may also be sent with TipSoft or by texting the word CEDAR plus the information to CRIMES (274637). Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to opt out at any time. Text HELP for more information. Anyone with information leading to an arrest is eligible for a cash reward.

Anonymous tips may be sent through the Cedar Valley Crime Stoppers Confidential Web Tip Information System.


32 Responses to Melvin Gallagher

  1. PJ says:

    Do you know who your half twin sisters are from your father’s fiancee Gloria?? Just curious if you would want to know that information?? I am so very sorry that this case has never been solved. It sounds like you have experienced a lot of heartbreak in your life. Prayers for you as you continue this journey.

  2. Michael D Rogers says:

    I’m Michael David Rogers. Son of Melvin Gallagher. Sad to report,still no good leads.At this point, I have come to grips knowing I will leave this earth when the Lord calls me and will never know who killed my biological Father until I get to the Glory Land.Thank you so much for everyone who cared and still does, Much love. Michael David Rogers

    • Ash says:

      Hi Michael, I hope and pray you get the answer you are looking for. You sound like an amazing person and I bet you father is with you every day. Much love to you!!

      • Michael David Rogers says:

        thank you so much means a lot!!!

        • PJ says:

          Do you know who your half twin sisters are from your father’s fiancee Gloria?? Just curious if you would want to know that information?? I am so very sorry that this case has never been solved. It sounds like you have experienced a lot of heartbreak in your life. Prayers for you as you continue this journey.

        • PJ says:

          I left a comment for you on Melvin Gallaghers’s page.

    • PJ says:

      Do you know your half twin sisters from your father’s fiancee Gloria?? Just curious if you would want to know that information?? I am so very sorry that this case has never been solved. It sounds like you have experienced a lot of heartbreak in your life. Prayers for you as you continue this journey.

    • A.M. says:

      Have you ever contacted this Gloria or your half twin sisters to see if they had any info?

  3. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Since a shotgun was used, their would be no shell casings. Most likely there might have been some stray pellets. These might point to what size shotgun was used. Somebody knows who did this and is protecting them.

    There was a guy in Ohio, who found the body of a girl, and claimed that a mentally damaged young man, was standing over her body, with a weapon used to kill the girl. The young man was arrested and confessed, but then he would confess to being in Ford’s Theater when Lincoln was shot if pressured.

    Luckily, he was released. It turned out a newspaper journalist decided to relook at the case almost 40 years later. It led to the family of the guy who claimed to found the other guy, to admit that he actually kidnapped and killed the girl. He was dead from cancer. They had no problem with protecting him all those years. Plus he had a previous criminal record of some sort.

    The local police apologized to the family for the lousy investigation done by the department all the years ago.

  4. Michael David Rogers says:


  5. Kate F says:

    I would certainly look at Patricia and her known relatives or if she had brothers. The taking of half the cash leads one to believe it was a personal murder while trying to take money to make it appear as though it was a robbery attempt. I’m glad her son was adopted and hopefully living a full and rich life.

    • Michael David says:

      Thank you Kate,im Michael Rogers,I am Pat’s son,and yes,alive and well thank you,although I will tell you,I met Pat and her family in 1996,they were rude,never accepted me,and to this day,have nothing to do with me,yet,some family members sing in the church choir and attend Mass weekly, go figure?

      • Will Fox says:

        Michael, Patricia’s family’s attitude toward you should tell you something. You did nothing wrong, but you are the end result of your father’s ‘mistake’ that they resented him for. I still think the males in that family are the suspects in your father’s murder. A gas station robber NEVER takes “some” of the money, they take it all. Think about it. PLEASE.

      • Marcia Rottinghaus says:

        Your cousin Patrick Heideman son of Joanne Heideman is my son in law from Carol Stream IL

    • Michael David says:


      • Michael David Rogers says:


  6. Michael David says:

    Im the unborn son,born 2-19-1959 Im Michael David Rogers,I was born in Tulsa,Okla.and was adopted and lived my life in Oklahoma.and Texas,

  7. linda says:

    I agree erin….sounds fishy

  8. Mom Jody, I see a tiny typo in the above little synopsis paragraph. It should be “His death” not “He death.” Sorry, blame my OCD. Lol Love You!! <3

  9. Diana Wilson says:

    So terrible or the bride to be. Hope they find who did this.

  10. Erin says:

    I hope all of ‘Patricia’s’ male relatives and friends were thoroughly investigated as it
    seems as if retaliation for his abandonment of her would be a very strong motive! Those poor babies, never knowing their father…very sad. My prayers…

    • Will Fox says:

      I agree, Erin. Patricia’s father, or older brothers (if there were any) would be likely suspects, since he knocked her up, then dumped her. Surely Patricia’s family knew she was pregnant by him, and no doubt upset. HOW upset? Enough maybe to kill him!

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