Alison Regina Gray "Ali" McKenna(1969-2011)

Alison "Ali" Regina Gray McKenna
Alison ("Ali") Regina Gray McKenna of Juneau died suddenly October 15, 2011. She was born March 19, 1969 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ali graduated high school from The Westminster Schools in Georgia, and earned a B.A. in English from Rhodes College in Tennessee. She later earned a masters degree in education from University of Georgia, and a master of arts in English from the Bread Loaf
School of English at Middlebury College. At the time of her death, she was working toward a PhD in Education from the University of Pheonix.
Ali taught high school in Georgia for four years and in Spain for a year before moving to Juneau in 1997. Since then, Ali has taught at Juneau Douglas High School. She is revered by legions of students for her ability to challenge them, make them roar with laughter, and inspire them to love literature and learning. While she may be best known for her wit and humor, her audacity and her nonchalance toward authority, she showed deep caring and compassion for her students, many of whom turned to her for solace and guidance.
Ali also taught aspiring teachers in the graduate education program at the University of Alaska Southeast, and young children at Juneau Dance Unlimited's summer Fine Arts Camp. For several years she ran the Youth Court program in Juneau, helping troubled teens find justice and hope.
Throughout her life Ali showed a penchant for mischief, laughter, sarcasm and bucking convention. In high school she was named Westminster Wildcat, an honor generally bestowed on the biggest character in the class, who can stir up a lot of school spirit. As a young high school teacher in Georgia, "Ms. Gray" shared with her students a mock eulogy she'd written for herself in which she claimed to have died at age 85 in a skydiving accident after mistaking a bag of laundry for her parachute.
In high school Ali was captain of both the varsity soccer and basketball teams. As a teen she represented Georgia against Texas in the finals of a select traveling team, and played varsity soccer in college. In Juneau, Ali enjoyed hiking, camping, kayaking, skiing and biking. When Juneau's ice arena opened Ali rented the ice every Sunday and invited a group of friends to play hockey, though she could barely stand up on skates.
Ali's greatest love was her children. She was a playful, creative and devoted mother, always willing to take other children into her circle of laughter and warmth.
She is survived by her mother, Vicki Allison of Juneau, father John Charles (Jack) Gray of Georgia, brother John Charles (Chaz) Gray, Jr. of California, great-grandmother Dena Gray Short of Florida, former husband Tom McKenna and her beloved children Tim McKenna (age 11) and Katie McKenna (age 9), all of Juneau. She is also mourned by the many friends and students who have had the privilege of sharing her life.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, November 5 at 4 p.m. at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. Photos and memories can be shared via a "Memorial for Ali McKenna" group on Facebook and at
In lieu of flowers, contributions are being accepted for Ali's children's college fund. Checks must be payable to: Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and can be mailed directly to AK USA FCU at 1 Sealaska Plaza, Ste 101, Juneau, AK 99801. Indicate on the check memo line that this is for Tim& Katie's college fund. Tax-deductible donations may be made to the Ali McKenna Memorial Fund for the Arts at Wells Fargo Bank, 123 Seward St, Juneau, AK 99801.

Published in The Juneau Empire from Oct. 24 to Oct. 31, 2011