[UPDATED: April 10 at 9:05 a.m. to include viewing, funeral arrangements]
Allan "Rich" McAllister, 51, passed away on Sunday, April 8.
Rich wrote an for the Verona/Cedar Grove Patch, in which he described his life and the struggles he has faced. He was a quadriplegic, who lost his legs below his knees, the use of his hands, wrists and lower arms, as well as 60 percent of this throat but persevered.
In one post, ", he details "496 straight days in three hospitals, two rehabilitation facilities, 22 operations and approximately $15 million dollars."
But being a disabled person was far from all of who he was. McAllister was also a well-known local volunteer, including his work with the Cedar Grove chapter of UNICO.
“He had a wonderful sense of humor,” said Cedar Grove UNICO President John Borgese. “He never complained about his situation. He never complained that he was given a raw deal. He never said there was anything he couldn’t do.”
“When I asked him to be the chairperson of our chapter’s anniversary event, I knew it would be the greatest event in our 25-year history,” Borgese said. “I got some flak initially — some people didn’t understand why I chose him. I said, ‘wait till you see this guy.’ ”
Borgese said McAllister “did a wonderful job and we got extremely close because of it. He touched a lot of people in our chapter and around the country.”
“Rich was truly an angel,” he said, adding, “He’s with the angels now. I hate being so spiritual here, but when you meet somebody like Rich you’ll never forget him. He was so uplifting, so inspirational.”
As an example, Borgese said “He utilized his greatest strengths and assets so he could touch people in a positive way.”
“God didn’t take away his mental capacity,” he said, “God didn’t take away his brain.”
Though UNICO is an Italian-American organization, Borgese said McAllister joined because his wife Lisa was Italian descent.
“His wife is of Italian heritage,” he said. “When he joined he said, ‘I don’t want to be treated special. I want to pay my dues like anyone else.’ In less than a year, he became the face of our chapter.”
Borgese said McAllister relationship with UNICO began “when Rich was stricken with sepsis, which led to his amputations. We organized a pasta dinner in Cedar Grove. All the civic organizations got involved. It was a fundraiser for his family.”
When McAllister came home from the hospital, Borgese said, he had to have his whole house redone.
“He couldn’t climb steps, he had to have everything set at a different height,” Borgese said. “So there were fundraisers going on, to help the family. When everything’s taken away from you when you’re 46 or 47, what do you do?”
Borgese acknowleged he got “extremely close to Rich in the last year and a half. We would talk almost every day.”
Borgese said McAllister would say, “Today I did my three-quarters of a mile walk in 45 minutes. Tomorrow I’m going to do it in 44’.”
“From what I understand he was stricken on Friday, March 30,” Borgese said, adding “his last posting on Facebook was about how excited he was to be going out to dinner with his family for his youngest daughter’s birthday. His youngest daughter turned 12 that day.”
In addition to his time spent at UNICO, McAllister volunteered as president of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Marketing Association from 2000-2002, the Small Business Relief Effort (helping companies located in Lower Manhattan who were directly affected by 9-11), American Records Management Association (ARMA), Association of Imaging and Information Management (AIIM) and many other business related associations.
He is survived by his wife of 23 years, Lisa; and his daughters, Brandi and Brittany.
The former editor of Verona/Cedar Grove Patch, Chris Nesi, who knew him well, sent this letter in his memory:
Today I learned that a dear friend, Allan "Rich" McAllister, passed away on Sunday.
Simply put, Rich is one of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. To know Rich was to be inspired by him; A family man whose life was drastically and permanently changed by a sudden illness, which left him severely disabled, but no less himself.
In the short time I knew Rich, I was always amazed at his sense of humor, his outlook on life, and his tireless dedication to helping other people with disabilities overcome their own obstacles. An uncountable number of people have had their lives enriched by knowing him, myself included. Rich was an active member of the Cedar Grove chapter of UNICO National, and just last year chaired the group’s 25th anniversary celebration.
He was also President of the Self Help Amputee Group, held at the Kessler Rehabilitation Institute in West Orange, where, among other things, he endeavored to help fellow amputees learn how to help themselves.
One of Rich’s many outlets through which he increased awareness about issues facing amputees was on Verona-Cedar Grove Patch. Since Christmas, Rich has regaled us all with his wit, his humor and his unique perspective with , which I would encourage everyone to read.
To Rich’s family, I offer my deepest and most heartfelt condolences for your loss. His memory will surely live on through the countless people whose lives Rich touched. I consider myself lucky for having known him.
Shooks Cedar Grove Funeral Home
486 Pompton Ave. (Route 23 South)
First Visitation - Wednesday, April 11, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Second Visitation - Wednesday, April 11, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.
Thursday, April 12, 10:30 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena RC Church
339 Pompton Ave.
10 a.m. gathering at the funeral home
— Bloomfield Local Editor Linda Federico-O'Murchu contributed to this report.