In memoriam: Kearny Firefighter Francis J. ‘Frankie’ McAllister — 1981-2021

Frankie McAllister Facebook image

Francis J. “Frankie” McAllister, of Kearny, who spent the last five years of his life as a Kearny firefighter and many of those years battling cancer, succumbed to the hideous disease Monday, Aug. 23.

He was 39.

It only took a few moments in town before word of his death started to spread, both on the streets and more vividly, on social media. The reaction to his passing was universal — the world lost one of its finest gems.

Frankie’s wife, Emily Dolaghan McAllister, is herself the daughter of a firefighter. Perhaps it is fitting Frankie would go on to marry such a soul. Her dad is Thomas K. Dolaghan, the retired Chief of the Harrison Fire Department.

Emily took to Facebook the very day she lost her other half.

“Today my soulmate Frank McAllister went to heaven,” Emily bravely wrote. “My darling, you really were loved by so many people. Your legacy will live on through our baby boy. Callum will know how strong his daddy was and how much you loved him.”

It was too long before Frankie died that Emily and he learned they were expecting a son.

“Thank you for the best seven years of my life Frankie,” Emily continued. “I am the woman I am today because I was able to experience the magic that was being loved by you. You are no longer in pain and that means more to me than anything. I wish everyone could experience the type of love we had for each other because its life changing.  Just like our wedding song says. ‘I’ll love you as long as stars are above you.’

“I’ll see you one day my love. I’ll be a little late because I’m still running on Frankie time down here rest now Frankie … rest now.”

Among the hundreds of people who also offered tributes were Steven M. Dyl, Frankie’s first chief on the Kearny FD.

Dyl wrote a passioned tribute for the man whom he knew well — and whom he knew was a dedicated, loyal member of the Kearny FD.

“You mounted one hell of a battle. We knew you were in pain but wouldn’t let that stop you,” Dyl, who help swear-in Frankie as a new firefighter back in 2016, said. “You made Emily one happy person. We could see the glow about her whenever she spoke about you. That glow was even brighter when you both were together. Rest easy my friend. Emily and Collum will not be alone.”

They won’t be alone because despite losing their patriarch, Emily and Callum will always have their Kearny FD family watching out for them, taking care of them, eternally.

“They will forever be part of the Kearny Fire Family. And with the best husband/father/firefighter watching over them, they will be loved,” Dyl said.

Dyl’s successor and current Kearny Fire Chief Joseph P. Mastandrea also made an announcement following McAllister’s death.

“With a heavy heart and profound sadness, I regret to announce that active-duty Firefighter Francis “Frankie” McAllister, 39, passed away on Aug. 23, 2021, after a hard-fought battle with cancer,” Mastandrea wrote. “Recently described by a colleague as, ‘…one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to know,’ Firefighter McAllister proudly served the Kearny Fire Department since October 2016. A graduate of Kearny High School, Frankie married his sweetheart Emily Dolaghan in April 2020, and the two settled in Kearny. On behalf of his brother and sister firefighters, I extend our most sincere condolences to the McAllister, Logan and Dolaghan families.”

Frankie had so many friends who loved and adored him, so it would be next to impossible to mention them and recap their tributes all by name. But one friend was Juan C. Barroso Jr., Kearny’s chief fire inspector and Frankie’s brother firefighter.

“Today is a very sad day for my brothers and sisters of the Kearny Fire Department. We lost a true legend and one of the most kind-hearted people you will ever meet,” Barroso said of his friend. “Frank McAllister, I am beyond thankful to have known you and called you a friend and brother. I’m deeply saddened of your loss but I vow to make sure your legacy and name will live on forever. My deepest condolences go out to your wife Emily and your family. May you forever rest in peace.”

Barroso, himself a philanthropist of epic proportions, through the Kearny Firefighters Foundation, has started a GoFundMe that has already raised nearly $10,000, with a stated goal of $50,000 that will likely be met and surpassed. You may donate at


Frankie was born in Belleville on Sept. 25, 1981, to parents Thomas and Janet (nee Logan) McAllister. He lived his entire life in Kearny and was a graduate of Kearny High School, where he was a standout soccer player. His love for the sport led him to coach soccer at St. Peter’s Prep, Jersey City. He was also a loyal fan of the Rangers Football Club.

Aside from being survived by his parents, wife and son who is not yet born, Frankie was brother to Heather McAllister and her husband Richard and Lorraine McAllister; the son-in-law of Thomas and Cynthia Dolaghan and brother-in-law of John and Thomas Dolaghan. He is also survived by his dear Godmother Betty Wason, many aunts, uncles, cousins and Goddaughters and by his dog Rugby.

Family and friends are invited to attend a visitation for Frank at the Armitage & Wiggins Funeral Home, 596 Belgrove Drive, Kearny, Wednesday, Aug. 25 from 3-7 p.m. A funeral service will be celebrated at the First Presbyterian Church, 663 Kearny Ave., Kearny at 11 a.m., Thursday, Aug. 26. Cremation will be private.


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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.