Wolf's Edge Info
Wolf's Bluff Info
Wolf's Gambit Info
Wolf's Trap Info
For the Press
Short Stories
Gilberto Dario Gagliani
Dennis Michael
Photo Galleries
Contact Info


Gilberto Dario Gagliani
February 23, 1932 — October 2, 2004

I held my father as he died.

I'd spent most of the night stroking his arms and his unaccountably soft hands. His hands had never been so soft in life, and now, as he straddled the worlds, he seemed to have given up his toughness, the hardness that made him so difficult to disagree with.

His eyes closed, I whispered into his ear words I hoped he could hear. I tried to show him the love I had never really shown him before, but now I would never know whether he understood. We were not a touchy-feely father-son team. We didn't agree on everything (after all, who does?), but since he'd been diagnosed with cancer, I had done my utmost to show him the love that before had only been implied. But now it was too late to say it and see the results. Now it was too late to undo those poor decisions, or unsay those occasional harsh words. It was too late, and the knowledge bit deeply into my heart.

I held my father as he died.

Outside, a brilliant Florida sun erased dark memories of the recent hurricanes, three of which had knocked out their power as if part of some cruel cosmic joke.

Gently he took that last step from one world to the next, going peacefully, with his wife of 46 years, and Janis and me at his side, at home and so close to the restless ocean he loved.

He was 72. He was too young.

Born in the seaport city of Genova, Italy, way up the Mediterranean coast of the boot (on the Riviera, not far from Monaco and the French border), he was a US immigrant whose life reflected the kind of adventure and romance many of us can only envy. Shipped out early as a cabin boy after World War Two, he spent 20-some years as a merchant marine sailor for various European and Scandinavian shipping companies, truly sailing the seven seas as did heroes of old.

If you can name a shipboard job, chances are he did it at least once. If you can name a nautical skill, chances are he'd learned it on one of his many months-long journeys across the globe. If you can name an exotic place, chances are he stepped ashore there. Among his many ports of call were Russia, the Middle East, the West African coast, Japan, India, North and South America, and just about every major European harbor city. He traversed both the Panama and Suez canals, and explored the Casbah in Alexandria. He witnessed an atomic test in the chilly waters off Novaya-Zemlya even as submachine gun-toting Soviet marines boarded his ship to keep it away. He witnessed a near-mutiny while iced-in at a remote Siberian port, where the crew nearly froze without heavy clothing — and he risked arrest by using a forbidden camera behind the Iron Curtain. Tempted to dabble in African diamond smuggling, he wisely opted out at the last minute. He suffered thirst and dehydration under a blistering Indian sun while stuck in-harbor, and caught sharks off the coast of Africa (as a kid, I cut myself on the shark tooth he'd brought me). There were light moments, too — he once took home an eccentric exotic parrot from Brazil who nearly bit his nose off, and he introduced us all to the fiery curries he grew to love in India. Some of his real-life adventures have already found their way into my fiction, and many more will.

He brought me toys from the strangest places, hoofing them over land and over sea, by rail and cab and on foot, following them up with descriptions and stories of all the places he had seen.

He worked as a harbormaster's fire marshal for a while, inspecting shipboard repairs, trying to keep nonchalant smokers from torching docked ships. He fought a few fires in that capacity, risking his life for the safety of others. He worked in a television factory, an ice cream factory, and other strange places. Fact is, he could learn any job, anywhere, and do it well, even in English, his second language (not counting his passable fluency in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, French and Russian).

Eventually landing in the boating industry, he spent many years as a Technician for the Engineering arm of Outboard Marine Corporation of Illinois, makers of Evinrude and Johnson outboards. He tested outboards out on choppy Lake Michigan, piloting chase boats, and in special tank rooms — where eventually the high-pitched noise would cost him his hearing — and on dangerous barges. He worked on some of the newest innovations of the outboard industry, like the rotary engine (a failure for OMC) and various inboard/outboard V-6 and V-8s. In his prime, no one could tear down and rebuild an outboard motor — or a lawnmower! — faster or more accurately than he could.

Once retired from OMC, he continued to expand his horizons with his continued interest in horticulture, traditional photography and photo development, stained glass crafts, and even computers and digital photography. An avid fan of NASA and the space program, he watched many a launch from his Ormond Beach, FL, home.

His interest in the world, the universe, and everything scientific lives on in my heart. Indeed, he will live on in my heart, in my fiction, and in everything I do and write from now on.

I held my father as he died, and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But I'm glad I was there to do it, and to whisper in his ear that I loved him.

I wish you red skies at night, always.

Ciao, Papa'.

"We commit your spirit to the sea you loved, with our eternal love and gratitude."


Time, flowing like a river
Time, beckoning me
Who knows when we shall meet again
If ever
But time
Keeps flowing like a river
To the sea

Goodbye my love, Maybe for forever
Goodbye my love, The tide waits for me
Who knows when we shall meet again
If ever
But time
Keeps flowing like a river (on and on)
To the sea, to the sea

Till it's gone forever
Gone forever
Gone forevermore.

(E. Woolfson & A. Parsons)

Please click here to view a gallery of his photographs