A Defender of Wildlife has Fallen: RIP Robert Gallo

Robert Gallo, known to everyone as “Bob,” died last Saturday. Like the Gallo family in general, he was very much a private person who preferred his contributions to nature and other public service went unpublicized. Nonetheless, he was a major benefactor to birds and wildlife, especially with his key role in the recovery of the Aleutian Cackling Goose, a formerly endangered species he helped bring back from the brink of extinction.

Gallo worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Audubon Society in their efforts to preserve the winter habitat of the endangered geese for almost forty years. He provided conservation easements on property he owned west of Modesto to assure the geese would have ample wintering and feeding grounds, and followed closely the recovery of the diminutive geese from a population of fewer than 600 individuals to more than 200,000.

Aleutian Cackling Geese by Jim Gain
Aleutian Cackling Geese by Jim Gain

Recovery efforts for the geese included the establishment of the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge (SJNWR) and resulted in a burgeoning population of waterfowl on refuge land and private property along the confluence of the Tuolumne, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus Rivers, west of Modesto. As is the case with most efforts to save an endangered species, the recovery program for the Aleutian Geese also provided protection and refuge for other species, including Sandhill Cranes, White Pelicans, Snow Geese, numerous species of ducks, and countless numbers of what Gallo called, “the little dickey birds.”

“I don’t know all their names, but I like to see all the dickey birds in the atriplex and brush along the river,” said Gallo, of the sparrows, towhees, and other small birds that flourish on refuge and easement land.

San Joaquin River Wildlife Refuge and Easements by Jim Gain

Pelicans and Geese
Wetlands one SJRNWR
Wetlands two SJRNWR
Black-crowned Night Heron one Gain
Double-crested Cormorant one Jim Gain
Mallard and Wood Ducks by Jim Gain
Black-throated Gray Warbler by Jim Gain
Pelicans and Geese Wetlands one SJRNWR Wetlands two SJRNWR Black-crowned Night Heron one Gain Double-crested Cormorant one Jim Gain Mallard and Wood Ducks by Jim Gain Black-throated Gray Warbler by Jim Gain

Most everyone knew that when Bob Gallo said, “It’s snowing in Modesto,” he meant that a large flight of Snow Geese had arrived from their northern breeding grounds to the winter habitat that also serves Aleutian Cackling Geese. There are times when upwards of 40,000 Snow and similar Ross’ Geese share wintering grounds with the Aleutians.

Gallo explained his role in the largest wine-making business in the world as resulting from his desire to make his own way in the world of business and commerce.

“I wanted a way to get out from the shadows of my father (Julio) and my uncle (Ernest),” he said. “I knew a man who had a mine where they produced the raw materials for glass, and I thought we could figure out a way to develop our own bottling operation.” Thus was born Gallo Glass, an outgrowth of the winery’s Modesto headquarters.

San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge
In Memoriam

A firm believer that nature and agriculture could coexist in sustainable relationships for both, Bob Gallo took a special interest in innovative ways to promote conservation of wildlife in the greatest agricultural regions in the world.

Along with his late wife Marie, who was a patron of local arts and culture, Bob Gallo leaves a legacy of public service as great as his role in the growth of the largest winery in the world. He lives on in the miracle of migratory flight, celebrated by the orchestral music of ducks, geese, cranes, and all the other denizens of the refuge he did so much to establish and maintain.

Eric Caine
Eric Caine
Eric Caine formerly taught in the Humanities Department at Merced College. He was an original Community Columnist at the Modesto Bee, and wrote for The Bee for over twelve years.
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  1. Just one more thing: I never knew about both the Gallo family and wildlife refuge areas. Thanks for publishing this tribute.

  2. May you Rest In Peace, Bob. Take care of Marie. You are both together again, to become guardian angels over your family. My sincerest sympathies.
    Sue Caldwell Tiago 🙏

  3. Thank You For Your contribution toward wildlife And thank you for sharing Bob Gallo’s story. From this day forward I hope the community will join & contribute and keep Bobs dream moving forward. Our Hearts 💕 Our Thoughts 💕 Our Prayers 🙏 Our Forever Theirs 💕 🙏 Condolences to The Gallo Family & Friends 🙏

  4. My deepest condolences to his family and friends. I would also like thank you and his family for all they have done. Thank you and God bless.

  5. I am saddened to hear of Bob Gallo’s passing. I had the opportunity to meet him at an Audubon Chapter Council meeting, hosted at the Gallo headquarters. I believe Bob was on the Board of Directors of Audubon California at the time. His enthusiasm for conservation was obvious, as well as his generosity. His contributions will be remembered!

    • to have someone that important go away that prided himself on helping the natural world, is very sad. The voice of the natural world is weak compared to humans’! A powerful voice for the vulnerable and voiceless is gone. May your Legacy live on!

  6. Sad to hear of Bob’s passing. He was always there for the FFA and youth programs and helped the Community in so many ways. Never wanted recognition for all he did for Modesto and the Central Valley, St Stanislaus Catholic Church and school, the Center for the Arts and so many other projects that would never be if not for the Gallo participation. What a sad loss to those who knew him and to the entire family.


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