As the Boardy Barn, a summertime watering hole in Hampton Bays, grew in legend over its raucous Sunday happy hours, co-owner Anthony "Tony" Galgano cultivated a culture of giving, locals will tell you, opening the bar to countless charities.
The establishment on West Montauk Highway with its signature red and white tent hosted a number of fundraisers in its 51 years and raised money for everything from an annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, to neighbors in need of medical treatment.
"If you needed help, the barn was available to you," said Galgano’s son-in-law, Jeffrey Minihane of Speonk. "And Tony's generosity was uninhibited."
Galgano, of Hampton Bays, died Saturday at East End Hospice Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Westhampton Beach following a three-year fight with cancer, his family said. He was 78.
The future of the Boardy Barn remains unclear. It's closed for the season and was listed for sale earlier this year. Galgano's son, Michael, of Westhampton Beach, declined to give an update, saying only that the process was in "God’s hands."
Tony Galgano was raised in Freeport and attended Bishop Loughlin High School and Hofstra University, according to his family. He participated in the ROTC program at Hofstra and enlisted in the Army upon his graduation.
He later settled in Hampton Bays where he raised his two children. Family lore has it that Galgano’s grandfather operated a speak-easy somewhere in the five boroughs during Prohibition, according to his daughter Jennifer Minihane.
Hosting others looking for a good time may have been in the genes, but above all else, Galgano's children said, he was a generous man.
Michael Galgano recalled how his father lent the button-down shirt he was wearing to a friend on the way to a job interview — literally parting with the shirt off his back. Another time, Tony Galgano handed his winter coat to a man apparently living on the street, leaving a $50 bill in the pocket, his son said.
"There were countless things behind the scenes that people never even heard about," Michael Galgano said.
Friends tried to pay back his benevolence when he fell ill several years ago. A GoFundMe campaign last year raised more than $120,000 for his care and helped offset bills during a time when the Barn could not operate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Decades before, Tony Galgano and Mickey Shields had opened the Boardy Barn in 1970 as a burger joint with live music. It morphed over the years into a destination for revelry and generally only open on summer Sundays.
For a $30 cover charge, patrons could enjoy $2 beers — either to drink or joyfully pour on one’s friends — and yellow happy face stickers as well as the chance to sing along without shame to classics like Don McLean’s "American Pie" or Van Morrison’s "Brown Eyed Girl."
Customers were better off leaving their Hamptons summer whites at home in favor of T-shirts with outrageous sayings.
"The fun of the bar, and the atmosphere was all great," Minihane said. "But people's pleasure, enjoyment, reunions, old friends, new friends, all of that meant the world to him."
Galgano’s humble manner didn’t exactly match the character of the rowdy bar. He once considered going to seminary and becoming a priest, said his daughter, Jennifer Minihane.
"You would meet him and say, ‘I can’t believe you own this bar,' " she said.
In addition to his children, Galgano is survived by his wife Wendy, daughter-in-law Jeannie Galgano, and five grandchildren. A funeral mass was held Tuesday at St. Rosalie's Church in Hampton Bays followed by burial at Good Ground Cemetery, also in Hampton Bays.