July 27. 2016 11:57AM
Wayne McAllister, a retired firefighter and school committee member, is being remembered as a mentor and community leader in Brockton. McAllister died on Tuesday after a long bout with cancer. He was 69.
PHOTO/ J. Kiely Jr./The Enterprise
Brockton Planning Board member Wayne McAllister died on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, after a long bout with cancer. He was 69. In this picture, taken on Oct. 2, 2005, McAllister, sang "Amazing Grace" during the domestic violence vigil at Brockton's Christ Congregational Church in remembrance of victims of domestic violence Sunday afternoon.
BROCKTON – Wayne McAllister, who was the first African-American to hold elected office in Brockton, is being remembered for his service as a city firefighter for more than 30 years and as a civic leader known for his frank, thoughtful stances on issues facing the community.
“The one thing I can take solace in, after his passing, is knowing how many people he’s touched and helped,” said Sara Keough, one of his daughters. “He had pride in the city. He loved it here. He was willing to do anything for the residents of the city. That was basically his passion.”
McAllister, who remained on the Brockton Planning Board and the Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School Committee, died surrounded by family at his Brockton home on Tuesday after a long bout with cancer. He was 69.
Keough said her father, who often got other parents involved with community endeavors, such as forming a basketball team at the Arnone School, would never be afraid to speak his mind on issues of education, diversity and access to resources. When he addressed a problem, he researched it thoroughly and didn’t mince words when giving his opinion, said Keough and others.
“He said it like it is,” Keough said. “He had a way of saying things that was direct and to the point. I wouldn’t say it was necessarily rude. But it was frank. And often it was a little funny. That took the sting off, but you got his point, which I think is what made him likable. ... He always had a way with words.”
Former colleagues at the Brockton Fire Department recalled how McAllister taught them the trade. Archie Gormley, president of the Brockton Firefighters Local 144 union, was one of several people who referred to McAllister as a mentor.
“What he meant to the younger members was, when we came on, especially myself, he was looking out for us,” Gormley said. “He took us under his wing. He showed us what it was all about. He was able to make us understand how the fire department ran, and how we should act, and how we should behave, and what are our responsibilities.”
Gormley said the Brockton Fire Department mourns the death of McAllister, who is also a veteran of the U.S. Army, for which he received an honorable discharge. Gormley also thanked McAllister for his contributions to the firefighters union, as a former vice president for Local 144.
“It’s a loss for all us,” Gormley said. “I learned a lot from him, not only about being a firefighter, but about union representation ... to protect all our benefits and everything that firefighters fought for in the past. ... He was a great community activist.”
Gormley said too many firefighters are dying from cancer.
“People don’t realize this, but that’s the one disease that’ll take most of the firefighters' lives throughout their career,” he said. “I feel very deeply about his family and their loss. We’ll continue to help them in any way we can.”
McAllister was the first African-American elected to office in Brockton, as a representative for the city on the school committee for Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School, said friend and fellow planning board member Ollie Spears. McAllister served as a Brockton representative on the regional school committee since 2002, and remained on the committee until his death.
As a member of the Brockton Planning Board, McAllister was among a group of public officials who were named personally as defendants in a $82.8 million lawsuit filed in 2012 by Brockton Power, after the company was blocked from building a gas-fired power plant in the city. McAllister was the only one from the group of defendants who remained in office when Brockton Power dismissed individual defendants named in the lawsuit.
McAllister was also active with the Brockton Chapter NAACP, and was a member of the mayor’s crime and drug task force. McAllister also ran unsuccessfully for the Ward 4 City Council seat in 2005.
Through it all, McAllister was a "straight shooter," Spears said.
"Wayne was a mentor to me, personally and politically," said Spears, who remains on the Brockton Planning Board. "Wayne told it how it is, didn't hold back and stood his ground. This is what I admired about him."
A wake is scheduled for this Saturday from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Russell and Pica Funeral Home, 165 Belmont St., in Brockton. A burial with U.S. military honors will be held on Monday at 11:30 a.m. at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.