Alison Schwartz, an alumna of The Alligator and UF, died April 28 after a three week battle with COVID-19 at a hospital in New York. She was 29.
Alison was the director of digital platforms at People, where she began as an intern. She graduated from UF in 2012, where she was recognized as an outstanding four-year scholar. At The Alligator, she started as a contributing writer and worked her way to become the co-metro editor and Avenue editor.
She was an accomplished journalist, but Alison was more than her resume.
Alison cared deeply for people and created strong bonds with her peers. Perhaps the strongest bond was with Jared Misner, her best friend.
Alison and Misner met in Beaty Towers during their freshman year at UF in 2008. Alison was from Wellington and Misner was from Clearwater. They met each other because their roommates were mutual friends.
They were inseparable. Anyone who knew the duo could attest to that. They worked together at The Alligator, covering issues like the local mayoral race. They were co-metro editors together. They loved road trips; they once drove through Alabama and Mississippi and ended up in New Orleans. They stayed for about an hour, then turned around and drove home in time for class in Gainesville the next day.
Even when they went their separate ways, the two were constantly thinking of each other. After graduation, Misner moved to Washington D.C. He was making about $400 a week, before taxes, and his rent was $800 a month. Money was tight, and Alison knew that, Misner said. Without saying anything, Alison had Chinese food delivered to Misner’s door.
“And that was just her,” Misner said. “She was always unfailingly kind, unfailingly thoughtful.”
One of the best examples of this was the wedding present Alison got for Misner and his husband, Nate. On the day of their wedding, the present she bought for the newlyweds hadn’t arrived. It actually didn’t arrive until a year later.
The woman on Etsy was just taking a long time to make it, Alison told him.
The present, a 42-square-foot quilt with all 1,420 words of Misner and his husband’s vows, was perfect, Misner said. Literally. The present was so delayed because Alison had sent the custom-made quilt back twice to be remade because a comma was out of place or there was a misspelled word. Misner called her a “professional secret santa.”
Alison was also funny. Hilarious, actually. Her former editor-in-chief, Chelsea Keenan, laughed through the phone as she remembered her days in The Alligator office with Alison.
“Everything that came out of her mouth was kind of ridiculous and absurd and over the top,” Keenan said. “Especially when she was with Jared, the two of them would just feed off of each other’s ridiculousness. It would have you in tears, you were laughing so hard.”
She said Alison loved “Twilight” — so much so that Alison and Misner covered it for The Alligator.
“When we were in college was when all of the ‘Twilight’ movies were coming out, and the two of them actually co-wrote a story about ‘Twilight’ that ran in The Alligator,” Keenan said.
The story ran on the front page of the Nov. 23, 2009 issue.
Keenan said she can hardly remember a time when Alison didn’t have a smile on her face.
“She always knew how to make you feel better,” Kennan said. “She always knew how to make you laugh. She was incredibly talented. And it’s one thing to be a nice person, but it’s another thing to actually be very talented.”
Joey Flechas, who now works at the Miami Herald, was a reporter when Alison was an editor. Flechas remembers Alison as someone who was kind and encouraging.
“It didn’t matter what it was. It could have been that you thought your lede was terrible, or it could have been ‘I’m having trouble with my girlfriend.’ It could have been, ‘You know I can’t make it out to the bar tonight because I’m broke,’” Flechas recalled. “It could have been anything, and she just found a way to cheer you up.”
Flechas said that Alison took time to check on each person, even after long, taxing days.
“It’s kind of an investment,” Flechas said. “There’s only so much in a day you can spend caring about other people’s lives and worrying about them. I always felt like she had a reserve of energy for this to ask ‘How are you doing?’ and ‘Are you finding ways to have fun?’ She was very much a glass half full person, and I can’t emphasize how important that is.”
Flechas also described Alison as someone who listened to you, and wanted you to succeed. He remembered early on in his career as a student journalist that he wasn’t sure if writing was for him. He decided he wanted to try out photography, so Alison sent him out on assignment to a political rally in rural Alachua County. Fechas remembered being surprised she asked him to go — The Alligator had photographers, ones that were, admittedly, better than him.
Fechas isn’t sure they ever used his pictures, but that wasn’t the point, he said.
“She heard what I said, and she tried to accommodate my interest from a professional standpoint. She was listening, and she was encouraging me. That really stuck out to me.”
Alison was full of love. Full of love for people, full of love for the work she did and full of love for animals, especially rabbits. During college, she fostered rabbits from the Gainesville Rabbit Rescue. That’s how her brother, Adam Schwartz, said he wants to remember her. Full of love and extremely generous.
Schwartz recalled a story of Alison from right before she got sick. To thank one of her nurse friends, she bought her a gift card. Her friend then used that gift card to buy masks for her team.
“I think that’s just awesome,” Schwartz said. “She was always trying to help others to make the world a better place.”
Schwartz said his sister had a lot to be proud of, but her biggest accomplishments were the relationships she built in her life.
“She was the most fiercely loyal friend,” Schwartz said. “I think the people we surround ourselves with tells who you are as a person. And hearing all these stories that people have shared about Alison — I have to think that more than her occupation, that’s the richest accomplishment you could have.”
Schwartz said he hopes people remember Alison as someone who lived life to her fullest. Someone who enjoyed every minute, but knew that to play hard you had to work hard. As someone who knew what it meant to be there for loved ones.
Schwartz said he hopes that people will remember Alison as an example of someone who followed her dreams and didn’t let anyone stop her.
Richard and Robin Schwartz, Alison’s parents, have set up a fundraiser in their daughter’s name, with funds being donated to The Alligator — where Alison was able to further her skills as a reporter and editor. The fundraiser can be found here.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Alison grew up in Wellington, Florida. The Alligator originally reported differently.
Alison Schwartz and her best friend, Jared Misner, at the University of Florida. Alison was a UF and Alligator alumna.