LenRay McCalister has died, age 49. His brother Stanley was my teammate for Gunn basketball, and his oldest brother Danny McCalister was a star of the Gunn Titans first championship basketball team, 22-5 in 1979-1980.
There were six McCalister brothers who excelled in football, basketball, track or wrestling for Gunn: Dan, Stanley, LenRay, Shawn, Mark and Lamont.
When Danny died, around Halloween, 2007, in a work accident in Saratoga, CA, there was a huge memorial for him in East Palo Alto. His father officiated.
At the Gunn-Paly basketball game in January, 2008 the school awarded Danny’s mother with a plaque, naming him Hall of Fame – -in some ways it was acknowledging the whole family, or the brothers as a set. Meanwhile, their cousin Mike Scott was the star of the Paly teams, and he stood at halftime with some of the family.
Kent Lockhart, a pro basketball player, knew Danny well, and from Melbourne, Australia sent four jerseys and two baseball cards back home. There was talk of creating a fund to honor Danny, to identify student athletes who had his qualities, who reminded us of him. (There was also a fund for the family at Archbishop Mitty where Danny helped coach girls’ basketball, his daughter Kassandra being a star for the Lady Monarchs).
One of Lock’s jersies was entrusted to Tom Jacoubowsky – it was to be displayed in the new gym. Another jersey I gave to Hans Delannoy, our coach (a Cubberley grad, himself named to the San Ramon High hall).
Maybe with the sad passing of LenRay we can resume the discussion of how to honor the McCalisters.
Just this week there was a meeting about Ventura as a neighborhood; it is being targeted by Sobrato and other real estate dynasties for dense housing, maybe a park.
Not to disrupt the family grieving process, but I hope that any serious planning about changing the character of the neighborhood should consider Black Lives Matter and the history of families like the McCalisters.
What is the Black history of Palo Alto? I have a sense, but I want a better telling of the story.
I am going to try to reach Kent and ask if I should pass on these two sports valuables to LenRay’s family — maybe they can be sold on EBay and the proceeds pay for an obituary in the paper or defray funeral costs per se.
LenRay had a son named Tully McCalister who played for one of Earl Hanson’s championship Vikings teams, and also at Cal Poly Mustangs. LenRay’s first cousin Richard Scott, Gunn 1979, is one of only five baseball players in the history of Gunn High School (founded, 1964) to play pro baseball, in the Pirates’ system.
Edit to add, two days later: I’m watching NFL on a Sunday — both the Niners and the Raiders lose, but there is some solace in the fact that former Gunn quarterback Chris Strausser is probably having one of the best days of his coaching career in that his Colts have run for more than 200 yards. I’ve added this painting by Stacey Carter which was created in 2008 as part of the discussions of the loss of Danny McCalister, the former Gunn football and basketball star. The painting is based on a photo from the 1980 Gunn Olympian yearbook; it depicts Javier Gil and Danny McCalister. (Stacey had created a suite of realistic paintings for the Baltimore Ravens, and I commissioned her to paint something about Danny; the original idea was that Gunn would put it in the boys locker room or the library, as a memorial and to raise awareness about the fund).
I had a talk yesterday with someone who works in educational foundation work. I think when the family of LenRay has a chance to mourn, maybe there can be a discussion of whether these potential initiatives would have meaning to them. My recollection is that 20 people came to a pizza parlor after the Gunn-Paly game 13 years ago, in support of this concept. In 2008, it seemed significant to celebrate a Gunn star because Palo Alto High would get more publicity. Now I think it would be more about just helping Palo Alto kids navigate the road from high school to interesting work, especially those who are sports stars in high school and also college. As a sports fan who knows something of the local scene, I would wonder how to tap into the success story of Davante Adams, who also mentored Keesean Johnson.