Kevin J. McAleese, 55, of Fairmount, a retired colonel in the Army Reserve who revived the Miss Philadelphia Pageant, died Friday, Feb. 15, of cancer in hospice care at a friend's home in Pottstown.
He had been active in the Miss America Pageant as a volunteer. In the early 1990s, Mr. McAleese was called to escort some Miss America contestants in the Philadelphia area.
It was through his work with Miss America that he became interested in reviving the Miss Philadelphia pageant, which had gone dormant in the mid-1980s, colleagues said.
He brought the contest back in 1996 and served as executive director, enlisting the help of sponsors, volunteers, and others, colleagues said.
The pageant has been held every year since under his leadership. The event awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships after he took over, said Kate Cohen, Miss Philadelphia 2000.
In recent years the pageant has been held at Drexel University. This year's pageant will be held March 2 at the Prince Music Theater in Center City.
"His vision is essentially what kept the pageant alive," said Kiplee Bell, who was Miss Philadelphia in 1998 and is now a physician. "And Kevin was committed to providing scholarship dollars and access to education for women who might not necessarily have that opportunity."
Kevin John McAleese was born Sept. 30, 1957, in Flushing, N.Y., and was raised in Hicksville, N.Y.
He earned a bachelor's degree in sociology at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., where he was sophomore and junior class president and student senate president in his senior year.
After college, Mr. McAleese worked for many years as a senior executive recruiter at Fox-Morris Personnel Consultants, a human-resources company in Philadelphia.
He worked most recently for the Navy's Wounded Warrior Project, helping injured service members get back into the workforce.
Mr. McAleese earned the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve, retiring in 2009. He had spent most of his 30 years in the Reserve in the 358th Civil Affairs Brigade, based in Norristown. He had served tours in Iraq, Bosnia, and Germany.
He received several commendations, including the Defense Superior Service Medal and the Legion of Merit Medal.
Mr. McAleese came to Philadelphia in 1980 and worked at a recruiting office, swearing in new troops.
Cohen said many people described Mr. McAleese as "selfless."
"That's what Kevin was. He gave and never counted the cost," Cohen said. "The way that he led was through service to his country and his community."
Mr. McAleese is survived by his mother, Loretta; a sister, Susan Wiedeman; a brother, John; and nieces and nephews.
Viewings will be Tuesday, Feb. 19, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., and Wednesday, Feb. 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m., at Dinan Funeral Home, 1923 Spring Garden St.
A funeral will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at St. Francis Xavier Roman Catholic Church, 2321 Green St. Burial is being planned at Arlington National Cemetery.