Joseph Lawrence Gahagan III, a retired Social Security Administration management and program analyst, died of esophageal cancer Tuesday at the Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Parkville resident was 53.
In his two decades with the federal agency, Mr. Gahagan distinguished himself by creating computer programs that assisted clients in using an 800 telephone information line. He is remembered by colleagues for his irreverent sense of humor.
"He was an outstanding employee who brought dedication to his job," said Noel McFadden, the agency's director for the office of telephone service, where Mr. Gahagan worked. "And he was just hilarious. He was such a fun guy."
Born in Baltimore and raised in Parkville, he graduated from Calvert Hall College High School in 1968. After two years at Towson University, he entered the Air Force, even though he was terrified of flying, according to family members. He was trained as a translator of the Chinese language and attained the rank of sergeant.
He joined Social Security in 1977 and worked at its offices in Laurel, Westminster, downtown Baltimore and Woodlawn, where he retired last year.
He won two Deputy Commissioner Citations for his expertise in computer programming and for his work with the agency's 800 information line. He used regression analysis and designed ways to staff the agency's toll-free number, family members said.
"He was a fun guy, highly intelligent, who never let things get too serious," said Jay Garrett, a Social Security co-worker. "When you came to work and he was there, you knew it would be a fun day. He was the kind of person who when he saw we needed a little stress relief, gave us a good laugh."
Among the attention-getters that Mr. Gahagan had at his office cubicle was a stuffed raven he kept near his computer terminal.
"He had an unpredictable sense of humor. He always had gag items - chattering teeth and false faces - to get a reaction," said his brother, P. Michael Gahagan, of Towson. "He was just teasing but people remembered him for it. He wanted to make an impression."
Mr. Gahagan was a self-taught artist who began drawing while a Calvert Hall student. He worked in pencil, watercolor and oils. His paintings were awarded blue ribbons at the Maryland State Fair and the Anne Arundel County Fair. He also made sketches for his co-workers.
A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. today at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, 8501 Loch Raven Blvd., where he was a member.
In addition to his brother, survivors include two additional brothers, Daniel Gahagan of Parkton and Sean C. Gahagan of Towson.; two sisters, Maureen P. Kristofco of Parkville and Patti Invernizzi of Glen Arm; his mother, Patricia Marion Gahagan of Parkville; a friend, Sally Byrne of Annapolis; and nephews and nieces.