Daniel Kenney McAlister (“Dan”) died at daybreak on Sunday, October 9, 2022 where he met the sunrise and the great mystery beyond in peace and without distress with his wife of 61 years, Martha “Bonnie” McAlister, by his side. Those who knew Dan recall the ever-present twinkle in his eyes – a spark that did not diminish despite a fierce and valiant battle against the Acute Myeloid Leukemia to which he ultimately succumbed.
Dan was born in New York City in 1938, the son of James Schubal McAlister (Spray and Greensboro, North Carolina) and Elizabeth “Betty” Sloan McAlister (Franklin, North Carolina). He grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey and graduated from Columbia High School, Davidson College, Duke University Law School, and the University of North Carolina Executive Program, having married his beloved wife Bonnie along the way. They lived in Charlotte, North Carolina (twice) and Greensboro, North Carolina (twice) and loved their time in both. Over the course of two decades, Dan and Bonnie grew their family by five children, each of whom carry with them the intentionally instilled values of humility, the pursuit of life-long learning, community involvement, service to others, and above all, humor. Anyone who spent more than a few moments with Dan can attest to the way he wove humor into the otherwise ordinariness of life, leaving in his wake laughter and joy.
Dan spent most of his career with Jefferson-Pilot Communications Company (JPCC), the radio/tv/sports production arm of Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, as Senior Vice President and General Counsel. JPCC owned and operated a nationwide group of radio and television stations and was an innovative force in the production and syndication of college sports telecasts. While Dan’s humility precluded him from divulging his integral role in crafting the contracts central to JPCC’s place in the evolution of college sports broadcasting, the fact remains that his role was significant and left its mark in the advancement of televising both the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference games we enjoy to this day.
Dan believed strongly in community service. His lifetime of service began as an Eagle Scout while still in High School. He later served as an Elder at First Presbyterian Church (Greensboro, North Carolina) and at Myers Park Presbyterian Church (Charlotte, North Carolina). He spent many years as Board Chair of the Greensboro Cerebral Palsy Association and had a significant role in the creation of Gateway Education Center, a public school for orthopedically handicapped and medically fragile children; served as Board Chair and was a co-founder of Bell House, a group home for orthopedically handicapped adults; served as Board Chair of Eastern Music Festival, the Bel Canto Company, and the Greensboro Public Schools Excellence Fund; served as a Director of the Greensboro History Museum, Triad Stage, United Arts Council, Carolina Theater Commission, and the Charlotte Oratorio Society; was an United Arts Fund Chair; and served on the WFDD and WDAV Advisory Boards. In addition to these community-facing roles, Dan valued the benefit of anonymous service to others. To that end, he spent many years hidden behind a portable puppet stage as “Aarvy the Aardvark” in a hospice puppet show about grief and loss presented by the Kids Path Program for third graders across the Guilford County School System. Over the years, he helped thousands of young children explore the reality that loss is a part of life.
It was with that same focus on acceptance of loss that he met his most recent journey with cancer. Through messages to friends across the country, meaningful conversations with his family, and posts penned to his CaringBridge site, he reminded those who loved him that the impending end of his own life is a loss to be met with gratitude for the fullness he packed into 84 years. In a recent letter to neighbors Dan mused “to my mind, this [terminal illness] is not bothersome in the least. I am 84, I am perfectly comfortable with the fact that I will die and, compared to any number of alternative exits, this one really is pretty good. Plenty of time to get things in order, somewhat of a schedule, and no sudden surprise ending.” His family and friends take great comfort in knowing the deep spiritual peace with which Dan met his final sunrise. To live a life to be emulated is an admirable feat; to walk bravely towards death while still modeling to those you leave behind that each moment given to us is a gift to be savored is an accomplishment few can claim. The life lessons Dan leaves in his wake will reverberate for generations through his children, grandchildren, and countless others whose lives were made brighter by his presence. His spark is not dulled by death but, instead, grows brighter through the lives of those left behind.
Dan is survived by his wife Bonnie and their children Sloan McAlister Dudley (Jimmy; children Will, Woodson, and Hallie; Charlotte, North Carolina), Mollie McAlister Jones (Greg; children Jack, Riley, and Cooper; Greensboro, North Carolina), Alec McAlister (Nancy; children Hank, Macy, and Eli; Greensboro, North Carolina), Katie McAlister Wangelin (Chris; children Lily, Siler, and Kenney; Greensboro, North Carolina), and J.D. McAlister (Liz; children Worth and Coeburn; Huntersville, North Carolina), brother Jim McAlister (wife Jane; Redding, Connecticut) Sister-in-Law Amy Gardner (husband Charlie; Silver Spring, Maryland), numerous cherished cousins, nieces, and nephews, and his adoring cat Sylvia. He is predeceased by many beloved family members and friends, which is natural given his age. Additionally, he is predeceased by pets Ralph, Professor Gabel, Bruce, Charcoal, Silver-Bullet the fish, Gator, Jigsaw, Mason, Dixon, Yankee, Boris, Boo, Maggi, Vito, and other animals whose names escape the family at this time.
A celebration of Dan’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, October 16th at First Presbyterian Church, located at 617 N. Elm Street, Greensboro, North Carolina 27401. The service will be followed by a reception in the Mullin Life Center at First Presbyterian. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.haneslineberryfhorthelm.com. The family wishes to thank the medical team members from the Cone Health System, the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical System, WellSpring Life Plan Community, and AuthoraCare Collective for their caring support of Dan during his illness. In lieu of flowers, the McAlister family requests that you consider a memorial contribution to First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro. The family is also delighted to learn of anonymous acts of service you perform in honor of Dan’s spark.