Alistair & Alan

This seventy-two-year-old was born in the South Side of Chicago. He was raised by his mother and grandmother who had great pride in being African American. Alan incorporated that sense of pride throughout his life. At that time, there was some segregation in neighborhoods, however schools were integrated. He can remember way back when a homeroom teacher, Mrs. Irmiger, made him feel important. He gives her credit for making him who he is today. When Alan was in his last semester in his senior year of high school, the Museum of Science and Industry needed people to work, especially people of color. Working there really opened Alan’s eyes to the world. He later studied marketing at the University of Illinois and graduated in 1968.

Affirmative Action was in full swing at this time and Shell Oil had a position available in Marketing. Alan worked there for one and a half years, but his real dream was to be his own boss. So, in 1969 he bought a gas station in his home town where he ran the station and also pumped gas and worked on cars.

After a while, Alan came to a realization that he didn’t want to pump gas for the rest of his life and he heard about a dealer development program for minorities being offered by General Motors. In 1975, he was accepted to the program, Class #10. During this training, the company trained him on all aspects of owning a dealership which could ultimately result in the opportunity to buy a dealership, if one were to be available. He sold the gas station and was put through training for all dealership departments in Flint, Michigan.

In 1979, Alan went to work for a dealership in Chicago, in the Sales Department. He got the opportunity to buy a dealership in Lincoln, Nebraska in the Fall of 1979. It was an interesting interaction because the owner actually met him at a hotel to discuss the purchase then later, after the dealership closed (around 10:00 pm), he was able to have a tour of it. He later found out, the owner didn’t want folks to know the dealership was being sold to a man of color. In October of ’79, he sent a letter to every employee to assure them that he would do everything possible to make them successful at the dealership. He was the only black employee for two years. The establishment did very well; he even received a Key to the City from the Mayor.

In 1985, General Motors approached Alan with an offer to buy a dealership in Texas. In 1989, he picked up a Pontiac franchise in addition to Buick. In 1998, he picked up a GMC Franchise which included trucks. At this time, business was fair to good.

In 2008, the economy went south; GM was closing dealerships and not doing well. In 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy. In late 2008, GM bought out and closed Alan’s dealership. In 2009, Alan got involved in a used car lot which he eventually sold.

Alan has three children from his first marriage which ended in 1993. Alan married Alistair in 1995 who he knew through a mutual friend. Their first date was memorable, as she asked him out and told him she was going to pay for the date. However, during the meal, she realized she had forgotten her wallet. She told him that if he would pick up the check, she would pay him back, and she did soon after. Alan was very impressed with her moral character and that made him want to go out with her again. He bought tickets for them to attend a Luther Vandross concert and they have been together ever since. Ali REALLY liked Luther Vandross!

In 2011, the couple wanted to buy a franchise and they prayed fervently about it. At that time, Alistair’s mother was aging and they had brought her to Texas from Topeka, Kansas after her husband passed away. She was a former nurse who worked for the VA for years. She had taken care of her husband who suffered from complications from Congestive Heart Failure. She lived with Alan & Ali when she later developed pancreatic cancer and vascular dementia. They learned a lot about caregiving during this time which resulted in a desire to buy a senior home care franchise. Because she was a caregiver herself, it made Ali better able to relate to the caregivers she was employing and it gave her a greater empathy for the families she was serving. Ali trained and worked with the caregivers and Alan did accounting and bookkeeping. They sold their business in 2017 due to personal health issues.

Having a passion for health, Ali became a certified yoga instructor and lifestyle coach. She works with clients on health coaching for the mind, body, and soul. She is also part owner of a healthy food truck that provides catering and healthy food options at events. Ali is also a dementia practitioner where she trains caregivers in all aspects of caring for patients with dementia.

Alan is tenacious about his health also, playing tennis regularly which he has done for years. He also loves yoga, the treadmill, bike, weights. He says his eating habits are a “work in progress.” He has an Amazon store which keeps him busy day-to-day.

For fun, they go to dinner and a movie every weekend. They also love travel, especially cruising. They’re also kept busy with their six grand kids. In February of 2020 they will have been married 25 years! Alan’s favorite vice is chocolate-covered marshmallows and Ali’s is salt & vinegar chips.

Dr. Myrtle

Photo Credit: David Downs

Miss Myrtle is a kind lady with a gentle spirit and a secret knack for humor. She grew up on a 200 acre farm in Oklahoma. Her family raised turkeys, chickens, hogs and cattle…they also grew vegetables. Myrtle admires her parents, and says they were a large influence in her life. Being a black family in a time where segregation was a way of life was difficult for their family, especially daily activities like taking the school bus or seeing a doctor. Myrtle’s parents never made segregation seem like a big deal. They would share vegetables from their garden with their neighbors who were from all different ethnic backgrounds. All the neighbor children would play together and Myrtle remembers her father telling her and her siblings to treat people with kindness and generosity despite their differences. One thing Myrtle remembers her parents saying was, “You see how the cats and dogs get along? They don’t fight…we don’t either.”

As a young girl, Myrtle was a tomboy who loved to play outside. She had dreams of being a librarian or a doctor, and she grew up being told that she was not allowed to say the word, “can’t”. She was encouraged to go as far as she could with her schooling, and her parents were able to provide that for her. As she loved math and science, she decided to pursue her dreams. Myrtle obtained three degrees, including a master’s, a doctorate, as well as library and teaching certifications.

Myrtle began teaching in Oklahoma where she taught high school students. At this time, segregation was still going on. Eventually, in 1954, the Supreme Court finally deemed that segregation was unconstitutional and banned it. For the first time, Myrtle was hired on as a counselor at a bi-racial high school. The change wasn’t easy, but with her upbringing of compassion and understanding Myrtle knew how to handle the conflicts that were thrown her way. She worked as a counselor in McKinney, and for over 30 years, she worked in Plano ISD as a diversity counselor. At that time Myrtle introduced different initiatives which included diversity programs — along with the district’s first diversity committee.

Myrtle has introduced countless programs and events to the Plano community, including Martin Luther King Jr. Day Annual Breakfast occurring annually for 35 years. She was also awarded the Drum Major for Justice Award that was established by Dr. King himself to honor those who have dedicated themselves to community service.

Myrtle is an amazing woman who has accomplished many things. We are proud to know her and to have been able to hear her share her story. She spends her time in retirement playing bridge, and continuing her passion for learning and knowledge by reading. She loves the color lavender and loves her sweets.

When you speak to folks about Myrtle, they are quick to share about her impact and just how terrific she is. Here are a couple of quotes from folks who know her well:

Myrtle has spent her entire life educating others… and not just students. I have known  her for 40 years and learn from her each and every time we meet and visit! Her belief in the good of each human being shines through and the lessons learned reflect this attitude.  I am blessed to call her “friend”. ~Florence Shapiro

“Phenomenal Woman”, “Dr. (blank)”, or simply “Mom”, as I call her is my angel.  She has touched and impacted my life in ways I can not express. Our lives collided and it was all to my advantage. She assisted me in finding and using my voice to make my community and the people in it stronger. She has this ability to make everyone around her feel special. She made me better. I know that I can never repay her for what she empowered and encouraged me to be, but I plan to honor her in all I do and say forever! ~Trish Patterson