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Stu Galley, 73: He had an eye for future -- and the past

Stu GalleyGalley

You may have known Stuart W. Galley as the guy who posted century-old diary entries about town resident Nina Winn and others on the Arlington Email List. Others knew the Arlington resident as a creative game designer and interactive fiction author.

Mr. Galley died of cancer in Mount Auburn Hospital on Thursday, Aug. 2. He was 73.

Town historian Richard Duffy announced the news Aug. 5 on the email list that Galley "has passed away after a brief illness. To fans of learning about daily life in Arlington of 100 or more years ago through the truly unique voice of Nina Winn, we have Stu to thank for bringing the past into our present on such a faithful basis."

He began posting to the Arlington List over 18 years ago, when he posted daily installments of the George Wellington diary of the year 1900, "as a way of celebrating the new millennium in the year 2000."

Behind popular games

In other circles, Galley was known for creating some notable interactive fiction titles during his time as a senior game designer at Infocom, an account at Gamasutra.com says

"He was the driving force behind popular games like Moonmist, Seastalker and The Witness, the latter of which won multiple awards including the 'best computer game of the year' accolade from Electronic Games magazine," it says.

After Infocom was acquired, Galley left the company, working as a sales system analyst for Thinking Machines Corp. before eventually joining MIT as a systems engineer.

In a 1986 interview with Zzap! magazine, Galley was asked whether he enjoyed game creation. "Yes, yes I do," he is quoted as saying. "It's funny, it's almost like a dream fulfilled but up until a few years ago, I had no idea that this was what my dream was because I had no examples to go by."

Survivors, background

Information provided by Legacy.com, reports that Galley is survived by his wife of 52 years, Fredrica Fritzi; child, Jacob; and sister, Lynne Schneider of Tuolumne, Calif.

Mr. Galley was born Dec. 1, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pa., to Robert and Elizabeth Galley. He graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1966 with a bachelors degree in physics.

He moved to the Boston area to pursue advanced degrees at MIT. He soon became fascinated with computer technology, and changed to a career in software engineering that began in the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS).

In 1979, he joined with several LCS staff and students to form a software company known as Infocom. It is regarded by computer gamers of the 1980s as one of the greatest producers of text-only, interactive fiction games.

Mr. Galley "possessed a great intellect and a wonderful warmth, curiosity and gentleness," the obituary says. "He wrote, edited, thought and inspired.

"Working at Infocom was the perfect place for him: it was filled with creative people. He had a great time working there and created lifelong friendships."

One of his proudest personal accomplishments was conceiving and building a cabin, in Parsonsfield, Maine, with his wife and son and help from many friends.

During the build, there was neither electricity nor running water. Constructing and enhancing the cabin was a project that he enjoyed for 13 years.

After Infocom's end in 1989 he started working for Thinking Machines, but in 1994 returned to MIT as a systems engineer.

Historical society efforts

After entering retirement in 2006, he employed his love of history and research and volunteered at the Arlington Historical Society. He worked on transcribing diaries from 100 years ago, and he put the entries on the internet for the community to read.

The first diaries were written by Mr. Wellington. The second set of diaries were written by the Winn family, Susanna and Nina Winn. After transposing several of Nina Winn's diaries, he felt a special kinship towards her: he went as far as researching every book she read, every play she saw and read background surrounding many of her contemporaneous world events.

Typically, he didn't skip ahead, and only read the diary for the current date (minus 100 years in the past) and posted the entry to the historical society mailing list on that same day.

Only a month passed between the time he was diagnosed with late-stage cancer and his death. He will be greatly missed for his constant support, thoughtful sense of humor and honesty.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Mass Audubon. Condolences may be sent here >>


This news announcement was published Monday, Aug. 13, 2018.

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