Donna Salof ...

Donna Salof celebrated her birthday July 1 in noteworthy fashion, being awarded the Key to the City by Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey.

Alton, Illinois native Donna Salof, a life-long advocate and supporter of education, had a rather unusual personal introduction to school. “My mother and our live-in housekeeper took me to my first day of kindergarten class and I just didn’t want any part of that. I just didn’t like it. I turned around, and ran down the alleys and through backyards, straight back home. I was already on the front porch when they returned home.”

After this unusual approach to learning, Salof graduated from Alton Senior High School. She went on to work for Trans World Airlines (TWA existed from 1930-2001) in Operations, working in both Chicago and Kansas City. Later on, she met her husband George Salof in a parking lot in Chicago and the couple has now been married for 47 years. During their early days together, financial times were tough. After George started his first business, Donna became pregnant with their daughter Suzanne, and the couple didn’t have medical insurance. A financial helping hand from Donna’s parents helped the couple get by. George has founded and sold multiple businesses and they’re headquartered in San Antonio, Texas. “We’re currently in the carbonation business,” Donna said. “We build the systems and sell them to companies for soda, beer, wine and water. We started that company in Kansas City.”

Despite their early financial challenges, Donna Salof was a stay-at-home mother for Suzanne, which increased her interest in education. “That’s how I really got involved with this volunteer, philanthropic work, which began as far back as preschool with her. I was the extra Mom on the bus during a field trip. I was the room mother in grade school baking cupcakes. When she got to high school, I was still involved in the PTA. Suzanne comes to Coronado and visits, she and George come to the Military Ball, the Coronado Schools Foundation Gala and whatever else. She is the office manager for our business in San Antonio.”

Suzanne graduated from Shawnee Mission West High School in greater Kansas City, the same general area I graduated from, before heading off to study marine biology at San Diego State. Donna said, “Living in Kansas City at the time, she couldn’t study marine biology at Kansas University or Kansas State, so we started researching schools. Suzanne wound up with a degree in psychology from SDSU. A friend of ours told her when she started working for the family business, ‘You’re going to need a psych degree to work with your father.’”

Salof shares time between her home base in San Antonio and the family vacation home in Coronado on Ocean Boulevard. She said, “We all come and go as we can, with our work schedules.” Their home has been undergoing extensive remodeling, which caused her to change her Coronado accommodations. “When I was told we had to move out, I thought ‘Where the heck am I going to go?’ So I lived at the Beach Village at the Hotel Del for five months. It’s official, I lived longer at the Hotel Del than Marilyn Monroe.”

While in San Antonio, Salof has been a long-time sponsor of Eva’s Heroes, a charitable concern run by the actress Eva Longoria. “I met Eva at a luncheon held to announce the organization, I just saw it in the newspaper and thought it would be fun to go to. I purchased a table and took some friends. She announced Eva’s Heroes and I’ve been involved ever since. I recently received a glass crystal bowl to commemorate a decade of dedication, because I have been there since Day One. Eva is a delightful person and very down to earth. She was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. She invited me to come to the studio for a taping of ‘Desperate Housewives.’ Eva has a sister who has special needs and she started the foundation to help young people aged 14-21 with special needs. They do after school programs, summer school programs, and outings with children and young adults. I got involved because I have a cousin with special needs and I remember my Aunt and Uncle having a hard time finding a facility to do this with kids at the time. That’s why Eva’s Heroes struck a chord with me.”

As was alluded to earlier, Salof has been a major benefactor of the Coronado Schools Foundation since her arrival in the city, a process which she described. “When I was new to the community and had lived here just a couple of weeks, I ran into Cindy Anderson who owns Coronado Bliss. She said, ‘There’s a gala for the Coronado Schools Foundation. Come with me, there are some people I’ll introduce you to.’ I went to the CSF gala with Cindy and her daughter Alexis. She bought a table and was introducing me to people who were in education. With my past involvement in my daughter’s school, it was something I could get into and enjoy. This year’s Gala will be the fifth that I’ve been involved with and help sponsor. We’re going to do something this year and we’re working with the Hotel Del Coronado to see what the possibilities are.”

Salof celebrated her birthday July 1 in an unusual fashion, being awarded the Key to the City by Mayor Richard Bailey. “I’m still speechless,” Salof said more than a week later. “My friends planned a surprise Happy Hour at the Golf Course and they lied to me for at least three days. They told me to get dressed for dinner. That night, I was in the car with my friend Amel Esposito, circling the city, as she was stalling for time. She said, ‘I have to go to the golf course to buy a gift certificate.’ When we walked past the bar, I saw people I knew. I walked in and was surprised by Mayor Bailey with a proclamation. Then he pulled this box out of his pocket and it was the key to the city. I don’t know what I said, I was just shocked, which is all I can say. Our family has been friends with Richard since his city councilmember days. I think I remember him saying the award was for my philanthropic work and work in the community. I’ve made donations to the Islander Ladies Club, sponsored one of the lounges at 92118 Day, I hosted a fundraiser for Coronado SAFE in my home and sponsored Coronado’s Got Talent with Alan Kinzel.”

Salof is an avid traveler and discussed some of the high points of her excursions abroad. “I have flown over the Great Barrier Reef in a helicopter; traveled by camel across the Outback of Australia to the Indian Ocean; spent a couple of days on an elephant safari in Thailand and I’ve been to China several times. When my husband was doing business in Asia, I went to Singapore, Beijing and all the major cities there. We were able to go to the Vatican, with four or five other people, to see the Sistine Chapel after hours. That was a highlight, to just sit there and take in the silence. My daughter and I were supposed to go to South Africa for a six-day safari this year, but that’s been postponed. We’ll do that next year, hopefully.”

As we concluded our interview, Salof said, “I just thoroughly enjoy living in Coronado. Many people who I have met here are now dear friends. I just enjoy doing what I do. I’m in a position where I can help and I’m grateful for that.”

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