Joan Ann Alli ‘illustrated the true meaning of family and love’

Worked at Courier for over 41 years; passed away Jan. 17 at age 84

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

From 1972 to 2013, there was a person who worked at the New Pittsburgh Courier who everyone at the newspaper loved.

For 41 and a half years at the Courier, that person had “something good to say about people.” That person was “always looking out for others when she came to work by stopping off at the grocery store and buying bananas, donuts and other goodies and passing them out at work,” recalled former Courier managing editor Ulish Carter.

Carter called that person “a shining light at the front desk who was a beacon of joy, which always let you know that she loved you unconditionally.”


Impossible to hold back his feelings about her, Carter continued: “She, more than anyone else I worked with, and I’ve worked with some beautiful, magnificent people, illustrated the true meaning of family and love.”

That person was Joan Ann Alli.

Alli passed away on Jan. 17. She was 84.

Alli was affectionately known as “Joanann,” “Josie” or “Aunt Joan.” Alli and her twin brother, John Richard, were born on June 29, 1936, to Charles and Marjorie Scott, of Pittsburgh. Alli was educated through the Pittsburgh Public Schools system, then graduated from Penn Hills Senior High School in 1955. Shortly thereafter, she met and married the late Sy Alli Jr., of Farrell, where Joan Alli relocated. After returning to Pittsburgh, Joan Alli began working at the New Pittsburgh Courier, where she worked in various positions.

JOAN ANN ALLI, second from left, with her son, Sy Alli, Gwendolyn Leonard, niece, and Rhonda Alli, daughter, far right. This photo was taken in 2009, as Alli was one of the award recipients of the Willie Stargell Banquet, presented by Champion Enterprises, which honors community champions.

In 2009, she was an honoree of the Willie Stargell Banquet Award for devoting, at the time, 38 years of service to the Courier. In 2013, she received a retirement celebration for her 41 and a half years of service to the Courier.

Prior to her illness, Joan Alli was an active member of Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church in East Liberty, where she participated as a cordial and usher. She also was a member of the church choir, as she loved to sing and was known to have a beautiful soprano voice. Joan Alli had an appreciation for various types of music, especially R&B. Her family said she always had the best and latest music playing at her home.

Joan Alli loved to entertain by hosting gatherings, as family and friends were her passion. She was genuinely warm, kind and compassionate towards everyone she met. Joan Alli’s affection and love of family is one of the characteristics embedded in the Scott family lineage. She was a stickler for cleanliness, her family said, as she kept an immaculate house and would wash the hands of nieces and nephews, while lovingly correcting their grammar; “Don’t say ‘ain’t!’” she’d tell them.

Joan Alli loved to travel, as she frequently visited family in California. She enjoyed train rides to New York City, as she had an affinity for Broadway plays. Still, her greatest joys were her children and grandchildren. She cherished them dearly, and enjoyed spending quality family time, especially during the holidays.

Joan Alli, center, in a 2013 photo with Courier employees Ashley Johnson, Brenda Hill, Allison Palm, Kathy Neely and Kathleen Yocum. 

Joan Alli is seen with Lucille Johnson, the woman who hired Joan Alli back in 1972, reflecting on the past at Alli’s retirement celebration at Pittsburgh Steak Co. on the South Side in Nov. 2013.

Alli was cherished by members of the Courier family. Stephan Broadus, current assistant to the publisher at the Courier, recalled that Alli “was the first person to greet me at the door when I started at the Courier almost 30 years ago. Her warm personality was infectious. Joan knew everybody and I could always count on her to keep me up to date on what ex-staff members were doing. She was the anchor in the classified advertising department and our clients loved her.”

Allison Palm, who has been with the Courier since 1983, worked with Alli for 30 years until Alli’s retirement in 2013. “She treated everybody with kindness, from the moment she met you, and she was especially good to me,” Palm, the Courier’s current office manager, said. “She liked to have a good laugh and a great party! She was a special part of my life at the Courier, I considered her my good friend, not just a co-worker. She shared in my ups and my downs on the job and personally, was concerned about my family, my children (she attended their graduation parties, even came to my youngest’s wedding), congratulated me when my grandchildren were born, and mourned with me during my personal tragedies.”

Ashley Johnson, the Courier’s current advertising coordinator, recalled the warm greetings Alli would have for everyone who walked through the Courier’s front doors on East Carson Street. “I will always remember her beautiful smile and her laugh that was so infectious, you just couldn’t help but laugh with her,” Johnson said.

Timothy Cox, a former Courier staff writer and current freelance reporter, called Alli, “one of a kind.”

And the Rev. A. Marie Walker, a longtime member of the Courier family and current pastor of St. John Baptist Church in Wilmerding, said she “remembered most about Joan that she always greeted me when I came in the door with a hug and a kiss.”

JOAN ALLI RECEIVES A PLAQUE to mark her decades of service to the New Pittsburgh Courier, from Courier Editor and Publisher Rod Doss, at her retirement ceremony in Nov. 2013.

Rod Doss, the Courier’s editor and publisher, recalled Joan Alli’s effervescent personality that touched fellow employees and customers alike. He said, “Her personality was like a warming bright light that shown through on the cloudiest day.”

Joan Alli is survived by her daughter, Rhonda Alli (Rick James); son, Sy Alli III; grandchildren, Natasha, Samaria, Sy IV; daughter-in-law, Alicia George; and sister, Doris Leonard of Indian Wells, California.

Joan Alli was preceded in death by her parents, sister Thelma Allen, brothers Charles Scott, Edward Scott, Donald Scott, and her twin, John Scott. Also remaining to cherish Joan Alli in memory are a host of family and friends who will miss her dearly.

(Expressions of Acknowledgement: On behalf of the Alli family, we wish to express sincere appreciation for the love, support and all acts of kindness shown during this difficult time. In lieu of flowers, please send your condolences in the form of donations to Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church. May God’s richest blessings be upon each of you.)



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