This is by no means an exaggeration. In 1979, John was one of a small group of RPEC founders who organized a talk by Rev. William Sloan Coffin, followed by the Richmond Conference on the Arms Race. That conference led to the creation of the Richmond Peace Education Center in 1980. RPEC remains the only Peace Center in the Commonwealth that has employed professional staff continuously from those early days to the present. This is in significant part thanks to John’s ceaseless devotion to the RPEC. John believed that Richmond could support a full-time Peace Center, and, with a small band of like-minded individuals, made that belief a reality.
John’s commitments to peace, to witnessing against war, and to environmental sustainability have informed the work and spirit of the Center from the beginning. For years, in his quiet, unassuming way, John was perhaps the most reliable participant at RPEC events. He was always in attendance at vigils, marches, and public programs, accepting more than his share of verbal abuse while standing on street corners and at public events as a witness for peace and justice. He was central to countless RPEC programs and efforts over the years, in particular its work on Central America and its work on military conversion.
As a core RPEC volunteer, John has consistently insisted that RPEC have integrity, that we live the values we advocate, and that RPEC model as an organization the society that we seek. In these ways and more, John Gallini has in some ways been the heart and soul of the organization.
His contributions have also been practical ones. For most of RPEC’s thirty-four years, John has guided and protected the organization’s financial well-being. Since he took early retirement from his job as a chemical engineer at Dupont, he has served in effect as an unpaid Chief Financial Officer. John developed the budget each year and served on the development committee as a member and chair. As RPEC’s “assistant treasurer” he kept the books, wrote the checks, filed the taxes and kept us in good standing with banks, state and federal agencies. Beyond that, it was John who took led RPEC through many financial crises that in the early years threatened the existence of our small, struggling organization.
John was often the primary contact with members of the religious communities that provided so much of the Peace Center’s early support. In addition, John served for many years as the chair of RPEC’s auction committee—somehow managing to keep a distractable team of volunteers on track as they built our most important annual fundraiser. There’s more. John also served for many years as chair of RPEC’s newsletter committee, planning each new issue.
John has also worked behind the scenes to ensure that RPEC had the best possible leadership. He either chaired or served on the selection committee for almost every executive director RPEC has ever selected. He has also served as RPEC’s unofficial historian for many years. You can find his comprehensive history of RPEC on the website.
In addition to his work with RPEC, John is also a mainstay of the Richmond chapter of Pax Christi, the Catholic peace organization. He spent months as a volunteer in Jacsonville, Haiti, helping to build and maintain a school, and establish a community garden, bringing in an organic farmer to consult, shipping drip irrigation equipment, and working with locals to form a management committee and, serving as a guide and chaperone for Virginia Tech students visiting the site.
John Gallini, who turns 80 this June, epitomizes the idea that you can accomplished great things as long as you give much of yourself, stay true to your core values, and don’t care who gets the credit. Whenever there was work to be done– moving office furniture, painting, making phone calls or handing out literature–John was there, doing what was needed, without regard for personal recognition. The most impressive outcome of John’s work as a peacemaker is the continued existence of the Richmond Peace Education Center as a viable Central-Virginia institution, with one full-time and five part-time staff members, and a growing list of programs for both adults and young people. Thank you, John, from all of us.
RPEC members, join us in honoring John Gallini at the May 22 Membership Appreciation Dinner. The dinner will be at 5:30pm at Ginter Park Presbyterian Church. RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with RSVP in the subject line. Find more information about the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1432413957001932/