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His obituary said no family came forward. It was wrong.

Gary Alligood died while living in a rehab center, where staff got to know him well.
A memorial lunch was held for Gary Alligood at Madonna Ptak Morton Plant Rehabilitation Center, where he'd lived since 2017. It featured his favorite meal.
A memorial lunch was held for Gary Alligood at Madonna Ptak Morton Plant Rehabilitation Center, where he'd lived since 2017. It featured his favorite meal. [ Courtesy Gina Bischman ]
Published Sep. 28, 2020

Gary Alligood’s obituary was 18 words long.

It read: ALLIGOOD, Gary W. 69, of Clearwater, died August 24, 2020. No family has come forward at this time.

Except they did. Sort of. The rehab center and hospice staff who knew Mr. Alligood for years want you to know who he was. At least, considering federal privacy laws about medical information, they want to share what they can about him.

Mr. Alligood was born in Pinetown, N.C. He suffered from several medical issues, said Melissa Valentine, a social worker at Suncoast Hospice. He liked working with his hands. He lived in North Carolina and California before moving to Florida. He told hospice workers that he was estranged from his family and that he’d been a wanderer, said Natasha Blanchard, a nurse case manager for Suncoast Hospice.

“It was almost as if he didn’t really want to be tied down to a place."

Because of memory issues, some details of Mr. Alligood’s life were lost, she said.

For years, before he went silent on Facebook, he regularly posted friendly check-ins from his home in Clearwater.

“Well I enjoyed Facebook today guys, there was a lot of good stuff. Nice to know you’re around,” he wrote in 2013.

He shared a painting he’d made, the guitar he’d built and the ups and downs of quitting smoking.

After moving into the Madonna Ptak Morton Plant Rehabilitation Center in 2017, he kept a jar of peanut butter on his nightstand and his guitar by his bed. He liked to wander the halls, checking in on staff and residents. He kept his few things organized and fretted about paying his bills on time, which he always did. Music from Fleetwood Mac, Don Henley, The Doors and Toto floated out of his room. He loved watching Supernatural. Halloween was his favorite holiday.

Mr. Alligood was easygoing, said Gina Bischman, case manager for long-term care residents at the rehab center. He was grateful for the smallest things, Valentine said.

“He was just a bright little light to everyone,” she said.

You could tell by his face, maybe, or his posture, that Mr. Alligood was often in pain, Blanchard said, but he never complained.

Mr. Alligood died from multiple health issues. If no family comes forward, his ashes will be scattered in the Gulf of Mexico, as he requested.

On Thursday, one month after his death, staff at Morton Plant held a memorial service for Mr. Alligood. It featured two of his favorite things: spaghetti and rock 'n' roll.

He leaves behind his clothes, guitar, CDs, a wallet and people who refuse to let him be forgotten.

Those we’ve lost:

We’re collecting stories of the people we’ve lost during the coronavirus. Please share suggestions at khare@poynter.org, and sign up for our weekly newsletter, coming soon, called How They Lived.

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