The Curry Coastal Pilot

Lela Moro Donaldson


My mom was born Dec. 1,1920, in Guadalupe, Calif., to John Batiste Mora and Maria Bignardi. She was the youngest of three girls, raised in Santa Barbara, Calif., and was a first generation American.

She passed away Dec. 17, 2013, at the age of 93, with me at her side.

She married Alexander "Sonny" Donaldson, Oct. 25, 1939. They moved to San Diego and, in 1943, Sonny enlisted in the U.S. Navy after his brother-in-law was killed on the USS Enterprise in the Solomon Islands.

Dad was stationed on Guadalcanal for more than three years. Mom went to work for Convair Aviation, as an inspector, working on the B52.

After the war, the couple moved to Santa Barbara, where their son Robert Hugh was born. Not long after, they moved to Long Beach, Calif., and managed their first restaurant, Spinners.

Mom moved many times, following Sonny and his restaurant ventures. They moved back to San Diego; I was born in La Jolla, Calif. Mom was a stay-at-home mom for a while, and Dad worked for Triangle Meat Company during the week, and was a chef on weekends at the La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla.

Then on to Vista, Calif., where they opened Sonny's Drive-in. After five years they moved back to San Diego and took over Lyda's Dining Room, in the Park Hotel. After six years, they moved the restaurant to the Embassy Hotel, not far from the U.S. Naval Hospital.

In 1969, while on vacation, they bought a lot in Gold Beach on Highway 101, from the owner of Johnny's Rock Shop. They returned to San Diego; and started planning The Chowderhead Restaurant. It was their dream to design, build and operate their own business. This happened July 2, 1977 and, along with their daughter, son-in-law and grandson, they lived their dream. Mom and Dad worked tirelessly side-by-side for many years.

We lost dad in 1995 and, In 2001, we sold the business - it was the only way to get Mom to retire at the age of 81.

Mom was the artist in the family. She sold multiple paintings in San Diego, one of her paintings of a pelican, hangs in the Audubon Society of San Diego. She designed the logo for The Chowderhead Restaurant. She sold thousands of painted rocks at the restaurant; I am sure they are all over the world by now. She crocheted many blankets - one with the family names - she made beautiful pine needle baskets and crocheted rugs. She continued to sketch and draw, but soon dementia took over and, unfortunately, she lost interest.

Mom was a "mom" to many kids in Gold Beach who worked at The Chowderhead. They all called her Mrs. D, and she loved every one of them. She was the best mother, mother-in-law and the very best grandmother - known as Granma to many. She helped raise her grandson and loved every minute. He was her "sweet boy."

Survivors include her daughter Kathleen "Kati" Rainboth and her husband Lloyd, grandson Anthony Donaldson and his wife Trista Mickelson Donaldson, great-grandchildren Cora and Canon Donaldson, all of Gold Beach; sister Ada Pool and nephew Harry Pool of Santa Barbara; nephews John Williamson, his wife Judy of San Diego; Jim Williamson, his wife Treena of Brookings. Also surviving are many great-nieces and great-nephews.

She was preceded in death by her parents; sister Irma Williamson; son Robert Hugh; and her husband Sonny - the love of her life.

A private family service is planned.

Submitted by the family.