Volunteers revive veteran’s historic home

FRESH LOOK Nick Atkins helps apply a new coat of paint to the Galtman house on Rosanna Street in Gilroy during a volunteer event put on by Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley and the Sharks Foundation in January. Photo: Robert Eliason

On a crisp and sunny winter morning in late January, about two dozen volunteers, dressed in identical T-shirts, gathered at an address on Rosanna Street in Gilroy. Their mission was to give a beautiful, if understated, old home a fresh coat of paint.

The vibe was upbeat, with laughter and easy conversations, refreshments and music. It was a perfect morning for a little convivial and neighborly manual labor.

But there was a barely discernible patina of sadness to the otherwise bright morning. The man who lived in the house, a familiar figure in the neighborhood for years, was missing.

The small Queen Anne-style house, which was built in the 1880s, was purchased 25 years ago by World War II veteran Dave Galtman, who died, on Jan. 3, at the astounding age of 97.

“Up until November of 2018 (when he was 96), he was walking to the Gilroy Library, three hours a day, Monday through Saturday,” said Bob Galtman, Dave’s son, standing in the yard as people swarmed around him with paint cans and brushes. “He used to love walking to the library.”

The volunteers were at the Galtman house as part of the latest project from Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley, a non-profit whose mission is to provide minor home repairs and maintenance, at no cost to the homeowner. RTSV often works with corporate sponsors to provide the materials and volunteers, and on this day, that partner was the Sharks Foundation, the charitable arms of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. RTSV’s jurisdiction is all of Santa Clara County, and in 2019, the organization provided repairs to almost 400 homes across the county, which was the result of more than 19,000 hours of volunteer service.

Rebuilding Together does not necessarily work exclusively with veterans. But the Sharks Foundation wanted to do something for vets. 

“We’re kind of like brokers,” said Rebuilding Together’s program manager Sam Kennard on site. “We help anyone who is (low-income), disabled in some way, or otherwise can’t manage their home repairs.”

If the Sharks Foundation wanted to do something for a veteran, they certainly picked the right family. Dave Galtman earned six meritorious medals during World War II, then settled down to raise a family in Gilroy, originally buying a house at Eighth and Church. Dave’s service established a family tradition, which his four sons all followed. Oldest son Emmanuel joined the U.S. Navy as a radio man in the Vietnam era. Son David was also a Navy man, serving in Korea during the Vietnam War. And Bob is a Navy vet as well, serving on aircraft carriers in the Pacific which were transporting Marines into Vietnam.

“I actually joined because I hoped I could link up with my older brother,” said Bob, 69, who lived with his dad at the Rosanna Street house for the last 11 years of Dave’s life, and will now live in the house alone. “I was walking down the street (in Gilroy) right after I signed up, and I see someone walking toward me, and it was my brother Emmanuel. He said, ‘I just got out,’ (and I told him), ‘I just joined. I wanted to get on the same ship as you. Son of a gun!’”

Bob’s niece is also a Navy vet, as are three of his grand-nephews. In his brother David’s house, there is a wall devoted to photos of family members that served. 

“We all get a big kick out of that,” Bob said.

Dave Galtman purchased the Rosanna Street Queen Anne back in 1996, when it was already more than a century old (Bob’s records indicate that the house was built sometime in the 1880s). The house was built before central heating and a furnace was never installed (nor air conditioning). The Galtmans rebuilt the kitchen and made a side patio into an interior room. 

The house’s eccentric nature, said Bob, reflected his father’s character. 

“My dad was a real free spirit,” he said.

VETERANS Bob Galtman holds a photo of his father, Dave. Photo: Robert Eliason

Rebuilding Together will set up a personal interview for qualified applicants for their service, and assess the needs of the applicant’s home. 

“Then we determine which program they are a good fit for,” Kennard said. “For instance, if they need critical repairs—that’s stuff like a broken water heater, or they lost heat, or broke a window, anything that needs to be done quickly—then they’ll be part of our critical repairs program.”

The Galtman project is part of the team-build program in which RTSV seeks out a corporate sponsor, such as the Sharks Foundation, and hosts a “rebuilding day.” 

“This would be painting, landscaping, removing debris, that kind of thing,” Kennard said. 

The program not only benefits homeowners, he said, but it also gives its sponsor an opportunity for team-building, having their workers cooperate with an entirely different task, often in the fresh air and sunshine. Besides the San Jose Sharks, Rebuilding Together has worked with companies such as Xilinx, Amazon and Silicon Valley Mechanical.

“The cool thing about working in Gilroy that I noticed with this project,” Kennard said, “is that everyone seems to know each other. Word travels faster. This is great to help out the Galtmans, to help out the Sharks. But it’s also great because it spreads the word about what’s available and what people can take advantage of in the Gilroy community.”

Rebuilding Together and the Sharks Foundation had already done quite a bit of work at the house during the final months of Dave Galtman’s life, putting up banisters and handrails in the home’s interior. When Dave requested they install a ramp on the front porch, RTSV went one better and installed an electric lift to allow Dave more mobility. Since Dave’s death, the lift has been removed.

“They’ve really done a super job,” said Bob Galtman, as volunteers were swiftly applying coats of Plymouth Gray to his house. “They asked me if they could take the lift to help another veteran, and I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ That’s the right thing to do.”

For information on home-repair assistance programs at Rebuilding Together Silicon Valley, visit rebuildingtogethersv.org.

Wallace Baine
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About Wallace Baine
Wallace Baine is a staff writer for New SV Media with extensive experience covering community arts in the region.