Crawford “Wayne” McAllister, 69, served this country first in the U.S. Air Force and then by working 33 years in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office.
Now he is tackling cancer.
Customs agents and Daytona Beach Police honored Mr. McAllister with a surprise parade going by his Daytona Beach home Feb. 4.
He began his Customs career in 1980 after serving in the Air Force, leaving as a staff sergeant. It seemed a natural link to go from the military to a federal agency. After stints in Texas and Virginia, he landed in Florida where he worked the majority of his career out of Jacksonville, his home town. His work largely focused on drug detection, using canines, including some significant narcotics seizures over the years.
“I was very much astounded and humbled,” Mr. McAllister said. “The parade was outstanding.”
He was diagnosed in August 2019 with neuro endocrine carcinoma. After a remission, the aggressive cancer is back and he is fighting hard.
“My support lies in the faith I’ve got,” Mr. McAllister said. “I’m not going to give up. I’m here today because people are still praying for me.”
His wife, Georgi, volunteers with AMI Kids.
“(My wife) has a wonderful love for the community. She has a great love for the youth of the community,” he said. “She knows the future of the nation lies in our youth. If they don’t get it right then we’re not going to get it right.
He and his wife met at a car wash in Jacksonville 31 years ago.
“He was getting his government vehicle washed and I was getting my car washed,” Ms. McAllister said. “Three months later we were married.”
She appreciates that the folks in Customs remembered her husband.
“Linda Alexander from Customs just put out the word that Wayne’s not doing so well and everybody, including Jennifer Bradshaw, who is the supervisor over there, she allowed it all to happen,” Ms. McAllister said. “What I loved the most is that it was the Daytona Beach Police that led the procession and they worked in conjunction with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Jacksonville. The police were wonderful here in Daytona.
With he married his wife, he hooked up with a big family, including Ms. McAllister's grandmother, stepfather and and two children, who all lived with them.
“So, he took on the responsibility of everybody,” she said.
Ellen Rios, their daughter, thinks a lot of her stepfather.
“The truth is that he came into my life when I needed a dad,” Ms. Rios said. “Technically, he's my step-dad, but we couldn't be more alike if he were my biological dad. And that's another thing: he's my dad. There are fathers and there are dads. While I have respect for him, I know he is approachable and I only have to be myself around him. He encourages me to be myself and loves me whether I'm laughing or crying or sometimes doing both at the same time.
“We've laughed and cried together over the last month. During this time, we've reminded each other of Truth. We believe that the Bible is Truth, as are the promises in it, including those of healing,” she said. “We've prayed together, sang together, told goofy jokes together and that's the point … we are together during this time. I'm thankful to have a mom and dad who want to spend time with me and my husband and son.”
Ms. Rios added, “Time is the most precious gift we all have.”
The Customs agents and police took care of all the details, including a blanket and a chair for Mr. McAllister, so he could be in the place of honor, and hand-made signs decorating the front yard.
The police blocked off the street so everyone could speak to Mr. McAllister directly.
David Dilland became Custom supervisor in Jacksonville after Mr. McAllister retired.
“So, I asked a number of officers and staff to provide their thoughts. It is clear to me that Wayne left a very big impact on those he worked with. Our Area Port Director Jennifer Bradshaw along with other CBP managers, officers and staff were a part of the parade that stopped off and met with Wayne.”
“I think one of the many things that touched my heart was the one thing we all had in common – our love and respect for Wayne,” Mr. Dilland said.
Besides his wife and Ms. Rios, Mr. McAllister has a daughter, Jennifer, and had a stepson, Jeremy, who died in 2013.