1932 – 2021
Robert Searcy Allison, age 88, died peacefully on March 24, 2021, following a brief illness surrounded by his beloved family.
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee September 9, 1932, the son of Margaret Elizabeth Searcy Allison and George Upton Allison. His parents and his younger brother George (Bud) Allison predeceased him. His Mom was from South Alabama and his Dad from East Tennessee.
A 1954 graduate of the University of Tennessee, Bob was elected president of the University’s student body. He was actively involved and an officer in his fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta. Later he was named Outstanding Senior by the Omicron Delta Kappa leadership fraternity. Just before graduation, Allison was one of eleven students selected as a Torchbearer. “The Torchbearer is the highest student honor conferred by the University of Tennessee. Torchbearers are Seniors who have served their Alma Mater with overall excellence.”
Following graduation from the University of Tennessee, Bob married the love of his life, Anne, in July 1954. He immediately moved with his bride to Schenectady, NY, having been hired by General Electric’s Advertising and Sales Promotion Department.
He served two years of active duty as an officer in the U.S. Army. One of those years was in the Territory of Alaska during 1955 and 1956. Anne joined him in Alaska, teaching kindergarten in the small port town of Whittier.
Allison left GE in Schenectady to join Doe-Anderson Advertising Agency in Louisville in March 1960. In early 1973, he was elected the agency’s president/CEO and served as its leader for the next 20 years until his retirement in 1993. During Bob’s working years, he was chosen for membership on the national board of directors of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, also serving as chair of the U.S. Central Region of the AAAA. He was chair of the Advertising and Marketing International Network.
Bob’s most treasured community-involvement memories were the years he spent as a leader of Troop 318 of the Boy Scouts (affiliated with Second Presbyterian Church), and the lifelong friendships he enjoyed with so many of these young men. He delighted in following their achievements in life as the years passed, and was especially proud of the many Troop members who earned the highest award in Scouting: the Eagle Scout rank.
Bob served for years as Eucharistic minister for his Catholic Church to Norton Hospital and also Naples Community Hospital in Florida.
Allison’s community involvement began shortly after his arrival in Louisville. Early days included a promotion for our Community Chest and also for the Fund for the Arts. He was an early and long-time member of the Louisville Waterfront Board; a founding member of the Ali Center; served on the Saint Xavier High School Board and also the Kentucky Country Day School Board; was chair of the University of Louisville Board of Overseers; and treasurer of the UofL Athletic Board.
Allison followed closely the entire career of Muhammad Ali, from Ali’s Rome Olympic Championship through each of his professional fights. A thrill came when Bob was invited to spend several days at Ali’s training camp in Pennsylvania. He ran each morning with the Champ and had dinner with him each evening. Years after Ali retired, Bob was having dinner with Ali and John Ramsey. Bob told the Champ he had never been so scared as on the night Ali fought Sonny Liston, a fighter Bob felt was a fierce opponent for Ali. When he said this, Ali leaned across the small table toward Bob, his eyes grew large as saucers and said, “You think you were scared,” followed, of course, with a huge Ali smile. Later, Bob was on the Board which helped organize and set in motion the building of the present-day Muhammad Ali Center.
In 1999, Bob was inducted into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame. He was also a member of the University of Tennessee Alumni Board of Governors and was inducted into the University of Kentucky Advertising Hall of Fame. He worked with a small group formed by the UofL Athletic Department under Athletic Director Bill Olsen, to create the Papa John’s UofL football stadium. Success for the group, he professed, was the unusual result of “upside-down marketing” wherein the incredibly strong support of UofL fans (with their commitments to a Lifetime Seating offering) eventually got the attention and support of the City, the Commonwealth and corporations. Result: the Stadium was built.
Allison ran three marathons, the first two just minutes over four hours. His final marathon was the 1983 New York City Marathon. He was determined to get under four hours this time and crossed the finish line in Central Park in 3 hours and 56 minutes. He had quietly promised Anne (in a tag strapped to his running shoe) he would quit running “crazy distances” if she would stop smoking. Being an independent soul, Anne did not jump at Bob’s offer of a deal but waited until December 31, 1983, to smoke her last cigarette (which Bob captured, framed with a brass plaque noting her important lifetime achievement).
He studied and enjoyed water coloring, clay and stone sculpturing, each of which he took up following his retirement. He continued with these fun activities for the rest of his life.
The family would like to thank Dr. Allan Currie and the outstanding caregivers at Baptist East Palliative Care.
His greatest pride, without question, was his marriage to his college sweetheart, Anne, since July 1954. He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Anne Lewis Witt Allison, and their two wonderful and much-loved children: Jeanie Allison Gatchel (Hunter), and Rob Allison (Cindy), and four loving and talented grandchildren Beth Anne in Orlando, and George (fiancee Sami), Natalie, and Louise in Louisville.
The visitation was held on Monday, March 29, 2021, from 4 pm until 7 pm at Pearson’s, 149 Breckenridge Ln. A Funeral Mass was held at 10 am on Tuesday, March 30 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 501 Cherrywood Rd. Louisville, Ky, 40207, with private burial to follow.
In lieu of flowers, if one wishes, the family requests gifts in his memory be sent to Kosair charities, 982 Eastern Parkway, Louisville 40217; or St. Xavier High School Foundation, 1609 Poplar Level Rd., Louisville 40207; or Sacred Heart Schools Foundation, 3177 Lexington Rd., Louisville 40206; or the charity of your choice.