William J. "Will" Gallagher painted Chicago scenes, often from the perspective of the condo where he lived above Michigan Avenue.
"His watercolors were luminous, full of light and big views," said friend and fellow painter Robert Andrew Parker. "He painted a lot of landscapes, a lot from his window, views of Lake Michigan, architectural views."
Mr. Gallagher had worked in construction as a young man, so the buildings in his paintings always had an accurate solidity to them, Parker said.
Mr. Gallagher, 87, died of natural causes Saturday, July 12, in Blessing Hospital in Quincy, Ill., according to his wife, Cathy. Declining health led Mr. Gallagher to leave his Chicago home in late 2012, and he was living in the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy at the time of his death.
Mr. Gallagher was born and grew up in Chicago. As World War II got underway, he was attending the since-closed St. Philip Basilica High School in Chicago.
In a 1989 newspaper profile, he described himself as a "wildly patriotic guy" who lied about his age to register for the draft, claiming to be 18 when he was actually 16. He was drafted within a month and eventually persuaded his mother to allow him to serve, according to his wife.
He fought with the Army's 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and was awarded the Purple Heart.
He returned to Chicago after leaving the service and, despite his lack of a high school diploma, was accepted into the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, using the GI Bill to earn both a bachelor's of fine arts and a bachelor's of art education, according to Parker, who was a classmate.
"We started at the same time," Parker said. "We'd have lunch on the 'front porch,' between the lions."
After graduating, Mr. Gallagher taught art for many years, first at an elementary school and later at a high school in Arlington Heights.
In the early 1960s, he left education, first working as an artist for World Book. From there he moved to Encyclopaedia Britannica, initially as art director for Britannica Junior.
"Britannica Junior was very old-fashioned," said Dick Dell, the editor of the publication who hired Mr. Gallagher. "He totally changed the look of Britannica Junior. He used large pictures, changed the typeface and opened it up."
From Britannica Junior, Mr. Gallagher moved up to become art director for Britannica.
"He took over for all of Britannica," Dell said of Mr. Gallagher's direction of the encyclopedia's look during a full revision that was published as the 15th edition in 1974.
Mr. Gallagher left Britannica after the 15th edition was published and soon became a principal in a business translating and publishing materials for companies doing business overseas.
In 1985, he returned to watercolor painting full time, according to his wife.
His "urban landscapes" have been exhibited in galleries around the city. For several years, he showed his work at the Old Town Art Fair and the Bucktown Art Fest and also exhibited at the Beverly Art Center, his wife said.
His last show was at the Cliff Dwellers club in 2003.
"He had a way of painting Chicago beautifully," Cathy Gallagher said. "He had a way of bringing light into his paintings."
Helen Gagel owns a number of Mr. Gallagher's watercolors, including some from a series he did of Navy Pier long before it became a tourist attraction.
She also owns a larger work of the Chicago skyline as seen from the west, for which Mr. Gallagher used blues and purples, that Gagel called "really quite beautiful."
Gagel said that when one of her daughters was taking art in school, Mr. Gallagher looked at her work and gave her good insights, advice and encouragement.
"He was really very generous that way," Gagel said.
Other survivors include two daughters, Audrey and Jane; a son, Hugh; a sister, Margaret; a brother, Ed; and one grandson.
A previous marriage ended in divorce.
Visitation and services are set for Tuesday, beginning at 9:30 a.m., in the chapel at the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy.