Allan "Rich" McAllister, 51, was a warrior.
He was strong, healthy man five years ago, when a sudden twist of fate left him fighting for his life in a hospital bed. A victim of sepsis – a deadly form of blood poisoning -- McAllister won the fight of his life but paid a terrible price. He lost both his legs, as well as part of both hands and his lower lip. He also lost some use of his lower arms and his throat muscles.
He did not, however, lose his humanity. He remained a fighter, and a kind, warm-hearted and funny man.
“Rich had a wonderful sense of humor,” said close personal friend John Borgese, who was also the President of the Cedar Grove chapter of UNICO, an organization McAllister belonged to. “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.”
“Rich was truly an angel,” he added. “When you meet somebody like Rich, you never forget him.”
In addition to being a member of UNICO (he chaired the group’s 25th anniversary celebration) McAllister was also a blogger for Patch.
Each week, he would write a heart-felt article that both shared his life experiences and expressed his hard-won wisdom. His blogs were touchingly funny, sad and honest. was about the simple beauty of a spring day.
In one post, ", he details "496 straight days in three hospitals, two rehabilitation facilities, 22 operations and approximately $15 million dollars." A three-time cancer survivor, McAllister wrote about how incredible it was to overcome a foe that is often unbeatable. He wrote about what it was like to live as a profoundly disabled person. Though his appearance had been irrevocably altered, his strong will and love of life had given him a second chance at life. Against the odds, he was able to watch his children grow up and to once again be a loving husband to his wife, Lisa.
Rich McAllister suffered a heart attack on March 30. After so many years of beating the odds, he passed away on Easter Sunday, April 8, 2012. He was 51 years old.
At the news of McAllister’s sudden death, the Cedar Grove community where he lived, as well as his many readers in towns across Essex County, were shocked and grief-stricken. 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.
FUNERAL INFORMATION FOR ALLAN “RICH” McALLISTER, 1960-2012
Shooks Cedar Grove Funeral Home
486 Pompton Avenue (Route 23 South)
First Visitation - Wednesday, April 11, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Second Visitation - Wednesday, April 11, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Thursday, April 12, 10:30am
St. Catherine of Siena RC Church
339 Pompton Avenue
Cedar Grove, NJ
10 AM gathering at the funeral home
--Craig McCarthy contributed to this article