Neckties

From daughter to father, this thoughtful collection reflects the ties that bind.



Bob Gale, who has written 48 reference books, began a tie collection with the help of his daughter, Chris.

Photos by Becky Thurner Braddock

You're familiar with the expression, "What do I give the person who has everything?"

Thirty years ago when Chris Gale was pondering a gift for her father, Bob Gale, for his birthday and for Christmas—both occasions being two days apart—the question was, "What do I give the man who has done everything?"

Bob Gale has led, and is leading, a remarkable life. A handsome man of only 90 with a twinkle in his eye and a sharp wit, the Oakland resident graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College, received his master's and Ph.D. from Columbia University and has written 48 reference books (under the name Robert L. Gale) on a long list of authors. In fact, with the exception of 2005, he has published a book each year since 1953—the most recent was a book about Truman Capote, with an upcoming title on Raymond Chandler.

The answer of what to give her dad was facing Chris Gale, a divorce and custody lawyer who lives in Squirrel Hill, all along: Her father loved to wear neckties. "The first tie I gave him had a 'great American authors' theme," says Chris. The tie, which had no pictures on it, was adorned with squares and authors' signatures-Mark Twain included.

Bob adds, "I loved the tie so much that she gave me one for each gift after."

necktie
Check out more neckties from Bob Gale's collection.

Each tie (Chris only buys silk) became a new chapter in his collection, every one representing a different interest. First, of course, was literature, and the ties included images of well-stocked bookshelves, a library card catalog, cowboy scenes (Bob has written books about cowboy literature), Mark Twain and great American authors (more subjects of Bob's books), Chaucer and Shakespeare—frequent subjects of Bob's teachings at the universities where he taught over the years.

Many feature Bob's personal passions, including opera and ballet, paper airplanes ("Dad likes to make them and throw them at people ... inappropriately," Chris jokes), beaches, baseball ("I'm a dedicated Pirates fan," Bob says), stamp collecting, ice cream (mint chocolate chip or butter pecan) and the U.S. presidents (he can name them in order and in rapid succession—a talent his mother taught him).

Others tie in Bob's personal history or fun miscellany, including ears of corn (he was born in Iowa), wartime airplanes (he was a second lieutenant in the Air Force division of the U.S. Army, serving in the Counter-Intelligence Corps during World War II), and the Pitt Panther (he taught a variety of literature-focused courses at the University of Pittsburgh for almost 30 years).

But his favorite ties, the ones with the greatest sentimental value, have to do with his wife, Maureen, who died in 2007. Bob met Maureen in London in 1943 while he was in the Air Force, and they were married for almost 63 years. Such ties in Bob's collection include a London road map (that coincidentally includes the spot where they lived), a map of New York City (they lived there while Bob taught at Columbia University), and the Book of Kells and Irish pubs, reflecting Maureen's homeland of Ireland. Chris also had a tie made for her dad that features a photo of her mom taken in London's Hyde Park, which, along with his Mona Lisa tie, Bob names as favorites.

Chris has purchased most of the ties through catalogs and some from local shops. Currently, Bob's collection boasts a total of 36 ties, which are hung on a tie rack in his bedroom closet. And Bob's love of chess and fencing means there are plenty more ties for Chris to find. 

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Bob Gale's collection of neckties began as a gift from his daughter, Chris.