Richard John Gagan
April 24, 1940 — Feb. 23, 2017

Richard John Gagan, 76, passed away Thursday, February 23, 2017, at CarePartners Hospice Solace Center in Asheville, N.C.

Richard was born in Waukesha on April 24, 1940, to the late Willard A. Gagan and Ethel Susan (Barkow) Gagan. He completed undergraduate and master’s degrees in sociology at the University of Wisconsin and he was awarded a Ph.D. in rural sociology, research methodology, and statistics at Cornell University in 1969 and a post-doctoral in mental health systems research at the University of South Florida in 1981. He began his teaching career at the University of South Florida (USF) in September 1968 as an associate professor of sociology. He became the director of the Department of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at USF and enjoyed participating in joint research with the medical school among other academic endeavors. In the mid 1970s, Richard took a hiatus from teaching to work with the United Farm Workers Union; an experience for which he was immensely grateful. Richard retired from the Sociology Department at USF in 2008. In 2015 Richard and his wife Sally moved to Asheville, N.C., to enjoy the outdoors and their two collies.

Richard loved many things. He was a popular teacher and adored his students. He was a great companion and valued his friendships; many of which lasted several decades. Richard loved to sing and write poetry, was active in the Tampa community theater, and enjoyed all kinds of music. One of his favorite songs was “Mr. Bojangles,” which he would play on his guitar. In his final days, his caregivers at hospice played it for him.

Richard was predeceased by his parents and his sister Nancy Abrahamson.

He is survived by his beloved wife, Sally (McKay); his three children, Michael Gagan of Tampa, Fla., Kathleen Gagan of Bernardsville, N.J., and Robert Gagan of Salt Lake City, Utah; and six grandchildren. He is also survived by two stepdaughters, Sara (John) Shaylor of Washington, D.C., Caroline Dumas of Asheville, N.C.; two step-grandchildren; his brother, Bill (Claire) Gagan of Asheville, N.C.; sister, Marion (Marty) Dwarkin of Bethesda, Md.; brother-inlaw, Ron Abrahamson of Waukesha; as well as many nieces and nephews.

Asheville Mortuary Services, 828 254-0566, is serving the family. Condolences may be made online at