McALLISTER, DR. DONALD THOMAS, 75 of Louisville passed away Tuesday January 14, 2014 at his home surrounded by his family. He was lovingly and selflessly cared for by his wife Diane through the final months and weeks of his illness.
He was a Notre Dame Football enthusiast, respected surgeon, father of five and grandfather to twelve, motorcyclist, wine and cigar connoisseur, and world traveler.
Don's heaven on earth was found every autumn under the golden dome of the University of Notre Dame. In the company of friends and cronies, he loved to analyze plays from the stadium bleachers amidst the rousing chorus of the Notre Dame fight song. He began attending Notre Dame games at the age of six or seven with his father. When he later became an all-state and all-American football player at Saint Xavier High School, and was recruited widely by Big Ten schools and Ivy League colleges alike, there was never really any question about which school he would attend. He was reading about Notre Dame Football until the day he died.
Similarly, Don Loved his alma mater, Saint Xavier High School, where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. He spoke with great pride of his association with coaches and teachers there, and mentored many young men while serving as the team doctor. He believed deeply in the value of diversity in education and set up a scholarship fund for minorities at Saint Xavier High School.
In no circumstance was Don's perseverance and determination to succeed illustrated more starkly than in his journey to become a physician. Weeks from graduating from Notre Dame, with a job already set up at the Ford Plant in Ann Arbor, no science courses under his belt, and less than stellar grades, Don decided to blaze a different trail for himself by pursuing a career in medicine. Facing little support for this endeavor from his more practical family, Don took all the science and math courses required for med school in a single year while working third shift at International Harvester. He was admitted to the University of Kentucky Medical School, which graduated him in 1965. He completed an internship at Kings County hospital in New York City, thriving on the adrenaline rush of a major city hospital, and did his residency at Yale University, where he met many mentors and friends who he recalled with great fondness for the rest of his life. He worked in medical practices all over the country before joining the Louisville Orthopedic Clinic in 1974, where he worked for almost forty years. He became universally respected as a colleague and surgeon. His bedside manner was impeccable, and he was well loved by his patients.
Don's greatest moments were defined by guts and determination. Built more like a line-backer than a long distance runner, he completed six marathons, including Houston, Honolulu, New Orleans, Chicago, New York and Boston, whose "heartbreak hill" has undone many a runner's resolve. Also intrigued by the challenge of mountain climbing, he climbed Mount Rainier twice and described the thrill of having to "dig down deep and find out who you really are". His many heroes include his mom and dad, coaches and medical mentors over the years.
Don also served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1969.
As a compliment to his indomitable will, Don was also a great lover of life. A man of large appetites and a prodigious sweet tooth, he enjoyed good food, wine, ice cream and cigars.
Despite his wife's best attempts to hide them, his ability to ferret out sweets was unsurpassed. Similarly, his appetite for learning and adventure took him and his wife Diane on travels far and wide, from colorful motorcycle rallies in Sturgis, South Dakota, to big game safari in Tanzania, to the Terracotta Army of Xi'an, China.
Don described himself as "very fortunate". By the grace of God, he lived many good years, surrounded by family and faithful friends. He found something to laugh about until the end, for, in his words, "If you don't have a sense of humor, you don't have anything". He will be deeply missed and remembered by all who had the honor of knowing him.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Thomas and Dorothy McAllister, and Diane's daughter, Lisa Yaden.
Don is survived by his loving wife, Diane McAllister, brother; Wayne McAllister( Susan), five children; Maureen McAllister (Jeff Rogers), Shannon McAllister (Ty Richardson), Kelli McAllister Bailey (David), Michael McAllister, Kevin Murphy McAllister (Katie), and former wife; Roseann McAllister, all of Louisville., grandchildren; Caroline and Allison Rogers, Tommy Aubrey, Elise and Christopher Richardson, Quinn and Juliet Bailey, Aidan McAllister, Kailey McAllister, Blake and Trevor McAllister along with many dear friends.
Don's funeral mass will be 2:00pm Saturday January 18th, 2014 at The Cathedral of the Assumption Catholic Church 433 S. Fifth St. Louisville, KY. 40202 with committal service at Notre Dame Chapel and entombment in Cedar Grove Cemetery at 3:30pm Sunday January 19th, 2014.
Visitation will be 2:00pm to 4:00pm and 6:00pm to 8:00pm Friday January 17th, 2014 and Saturday 10:00am to noon at Ratterman Funeral Home 12900 Shelbyville Rd. East Louisville, KY 40243 Expressions of sympathy may be donated to St. Xavier Scholarship Fund or Notre Dame Scholarship Fund, in lieu of flowers.
Published in The Courier-Journal from Jan. 16 to Jan. 18, 2014