Orchard Resident Spotlight

Pat McAlister

PAT-McALISTERPat was born to Stafford and Vera Davis in 1935. She was the fourth child in the Davis family which eventually grew to six children, five boys and Pat.

The Davis family rented 160 acres of land adjacent to their home in Kiowa County, Oklahoma. They paid contractors to do the majority of the work on the annual wheat and cotton crops.

When Pat was only eight year old she was already working in the fields hoeing cotton, carrying ice water to the workers and learning to drive the farm tractor.

Pat purchased do-it-yourself manuals with her own money at the five and dime store to teach herself how to knit, sew, crochet, and quilt. She was a gifted athlete already playing on the girl’s varsity basketball team when she was a freshman, and outstanding at softball and track.

The six Davis children traveled 12 miles each way to school in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma for twelve years. Pat went to college for only two years since money was scarce and athletic scholarships for girls were not yet available. She regrets not finishing college to this day. While working on a part time job she was dating Cadets from a nearby base. Also working a part time job at the same location was Everett McAlister who Pat called “Mack.” After noticing that Pat was dating only Air Force guys Mack asked her to give him a chance for a date. That was her last date with anybody other than Mack. After a few months Pat and Mack married and in a couple of years had two daughters, Linda and Cindy. Seven years later Pat became pregnant with a boy. He was born prematurely with significant health problems. The family was told by the doctor that Kevin’s condition was serious and that he might not live more than a year. The distraught McAlister’s decided to take Kevin home to be with them for whatever time he lived. Remarkably, he lived for twelve years, the last three at Sunland Hospital in Orlando, Florida where members of the family visited him twice a week. During his first ten years while he was at home Pat cared for him while getting only three to four hours sleep each night with help from their daughters.

In spite of his constant serious condition, including not being able to talk, or walk Kevin was a sweet and friendly boy with yellow blond hair and a big smile. The family took him with them everywhere, to church, to visit the in-laws and friends. He always knew what time the school bus was due to bring his sister’s home because they would stop to greet him each time they got off the bus.

Following are the words of a parent of a child with disabilities: This experience we did not choose, which we would have given anything to avoid, has made us different, has made us better. Through it we have learned the lesson of Sophocles and Shakespeare- one grows through suffering. I write now what fifteen years past I would still not have thought possible to write; that if today I was given the choice, to accept the experience, with everything that it entails, or to refuse the bitter largesse, I would have to stretch out my hands-because out of it has come, for all of us, an unimagined life. And I will not change the last word of the story. It is still love.

Words of Pat McAlister: Those twelve years with Kevin were the high point in my life.