Portland communicators mourn passing of KJ McAllister

By Tom Unger, ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA

The Portland area communications industry was shocked to learn of the untimely passing of long-time marketing and public relations professional Katherine “KJ” McAllister, who died July 25 at age 72.

The announcement was made by her family in an obituary published Aug. 23 in The Oregonian.

KJ worked as an account marketing manager for Hewlett Packard for 23 years, according to the obituary. She then opened her own agency, KJM Public Relations, in 2008. 

According to the agency web site, KJ “created and executed marketing and PR strategies for diverse companies from global Fortune 500 companies to startups.”

KJ received multiple prestigious awards, including HP’s CEO Star Award and multiple Achiever Awards, for her outstanding ability to execute and drive marketing and PR objectives, the web site states.

“She has developed ‘Best in Class’ programs and gained significant recognition for the quality of her work,” according to the site.

KJ served one year on the PRSA chapter board and then later served for many years as president of the Oregon-Columbia IABC chapter board. Everyone who knew her will remember her enthusiastic and warm personality.

“KJ joined the board when I was PRSA chapter president in 2010,” said Dave Thompson, APR, who retired in 2018 from Oregon Department of Transportation. “She immediately created a vision for the Communicators Conference that led to one of our best-attended conferences. 

“Her energy was unlimited,” Dave continued. “I had the pleasure of collaborating with her as she led the IABC chapter over the next few years, and that chapter’s professional development was outstanding during that time. Saying she ‘will be missed’ is one of the greatest understatements I could make. She not only made us better, she made us FEEL better!”

Glenn Perkins, who retired earlier this year from Wells Fargo, got to know KJ very well from his years of volunteer service on the IABC chapter board.

“This news just stuns me. So very sad,” Glenn said. “I last saw KJ shortly before last Christmas, just prior to my retirement, at which time I transitioned the Oregon Columbia IABC chapter’s treasury and accounts to her (as the chapter’s current president). Although the chapter had again been dormant for a while, she had plans for restarting the professional development luncheons on a quarterly basis in the spring. Of course, the pandemic put a stop to all that.

“I’ll always consider myself fortunate for having known KJ as a fellow Oregon Columbia chapter board member and a friend for more than a decade,” Glenn continued. “Over the years as the chapter’s treasurer, I worked closely with her on the planning, promotion and hosting of various chapter activities and events. Suffice it to say, I often witnessed her unyielding passion for event promotion, framed by her skills and talent for managing successful events, and all in the name of leading and building-up the chapter. Whenever conducting brainstorming sessions for a chapter event, KJ inevitably would at some point emphasize the need to make the event ‘sparkle.’ Perhaps that memory is how I’ll best remember her… always going for the sparkle, no matter what.”

KJ was a treasured member of The Link for Women networking group, said Eileen Kravetz, executive director of the Tualatin Hills Park Foundation.

“I met KJ at an event and we happened to sit next to each other. We became fast friends,” said Eileen. “She was kind and helpful, always offering to introduce me to someone or make a connection. She often invited me to sit at her table during an International Association of Business Communicators event, always supporting and connecting me.

KJ greeted everyone with a smile, which highlighted her inner spark and enthusiasm for life, said Eileen.

“Many of us at The Link will truly miss her. She was the loveliest of friends and an absolute joy,” Eileen added.

The family held a private funeral. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Oregon Humane Society or Special Olympics Oregon.

Those who knew KJ can leave condolences for the family at:
www.springerandson.com and/or sign the online guest book at www.oregonlive.com/obits.

Leave a Reply