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Gone but not forgotten

Remembering Norm Galli And his special gift to the owner of the Packard that rolled into the lagoon.


Story by Lindsey Harrell + Photography by Arno Dimmling

When we think about the 2016 Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance, most remember it as the year that Hurricane Matthew tore through the Island only weeks before the event or as the year that, dare I speak of it, one of the most stunning vehicles ever to grace the Hilton Head Island showfield devastatingly rolled into a lagoon on Port Royal Golf Club’s Planter’s Row course. But for me, the year represents something so much bigger – the amazing people who volunteer their time to help make the event a success.

After the 1938 Packard rolled into the lagoon during the 2016 Concours d’Elegance, event volunteer Norm Galli rushed home to collect a special Packard watch passed down from his father so he could gift it to the heartbroken owner.

Volunteers are the core of our organization. The event relies and depends on volunteers to plan and execute what has become the Island’s second largest event after the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing.

Despite the challenges everyone faced in the weeks that followed Matthew’s destruction, dedicated volunteers put aside their personal responsibilities and showed up to make an unforgettable event. And there was one volunteer in particular that, for me, is the epitome of what our volunteers stand for.

Norm Galli, a well-known Island volunteer, was passionate about Habitat for Humanity, his church and was a familiar face out at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn. But every fall Norm turned his attention to the Concours, helping as a staple on our core set-up team. Each year they spend hours prepping for setup and are responsible for making sure everything looks perfect. They work tirelessly and are, many times, the first ones to show up before the sun rises and the last ones to go home well after the sun sets. And despite the hours they put in and the physicality of the work they are tackling, they always have smiles on their faces and make what is a chaotic and stressful time fun.

Norm was passionate about the event and wanted everyone who attended, from patrons to judges to exhibitors to other volunteers, to have a good time and go home wanting to return the next year. Our event is known for its southern hospitality. Exhibitors and judges who come from all over the country consistently comment on how nice people are at the Hilton Head Island Concours. And Norm was the perfect example of why people felt that way.

Yes, 2016 was the year that the Packard went into the lagoon, a difficult and unfortunate event for everyone involved. But Norm took it upon himself to make sure the owner of that car left feeling good despite what had unfolded that Concours Sunday afternoon. We got plenty of news coverage that year, but, in my opinion, the wrong piece of that story was covered.

Pictured from left: Catherine Builder, Sawyer Strelcheck, Lindsey Harrell, Meredith Kronz, Norm Galli, Mary Grace Grande, Carolyn Meister and Kim Collett are shown at the 2019 Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance. Lindsey Harrell is president of the Hilton Head Island Concours d’Elegance, set for Nov. 5-7 on Hilton Head Island.

What people didn’t get to see or hear about is that when Norm heard about what happened, he quickly returned home to collect a special keepsake he had been holding on to since his father’s death. Norm’s father had worked at the Packard plant and had been employed there at the time the car from our event was built. When he retired, he was gifted a Packard watch. Having lost my father, I know how special those few things I have from him are to me and would never consider giving anything away. But Norm is clearly a different breed. Without hesitation, Norm introduced himself to the exhibitor and presented him with the watch. Stunned is an understatement as to the owner’s reaction. While we couldn’t go back in time and keep the Packard dry, Norm went well above and beyond the call of duty and made it his mission to make sure that owner went home feeling special.

Sadly, we lost Norm earlier this year. There will be a massive void for all of us this year as we return to the Port Royal Golf Club and set up for our 19th event. We will miss Norm’s smiling face in the weeks that lead up to the Concours weekend. But we know Norm will be with us in spirit, and we hope we make him proud. Norm, this one’s for you!