As a youth, each holiday season Donald Hunt would observe his father, a Salvation Army major and minister, and his mother, a fundraiser for the charitable organization, assisting those in need in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Decades later, the 2011 holiday season was not much different for Hunt and his wife, Priscilla. However, they continued this altruistic legacy with a notably larger gift.
During Holiday Festival Night 2011, Torrance Memorial Medical Center announced a donation of $11.5 million from the Hunts of Manhattan Beach. In recognition, the Donald and Priscilla Hunt Cancer Institute and the Donald and Priscilla Hunt Nuclear Medicine Center will be named and housed within the new Patient Tower upon its completion in 2015.
For 91-year-old Donald, a child of the Great Depression, the success he has achieved through tenacity and hard work has never been taken for granted. Priscilla points out that even in recent years, he opted to drive a Toyota Camry rather than a luxury car.
"Wealth doesn't mean anything to him; he is a generous and simple man. His priority has always been to put food on the table of his employees," she says. "This is why we connected."
Priscilla and Donald crossed paths professionally more than a decade ago when Donald hired Priscilla to assist him with managing properties and marketing initiatives at his real estate company, Hunt Enterprises, Inc. in Lawndale.
"He saw something in me," she says. "He always said, 'Priscilla is an asset, not a liability,'" she continues, amused by his practicality.
Priscilla soon realized they shared similar work ethics and values in wanting to help others. Priscilla's father, a business man and politician in her native Philippines, instilled in her to be generous, have good judgment and work habits and to strive to be successful from a young age. She vividly remembers him telling her to always give to the poor and to never eat candy in front of others unless she had some to share.
After graduating from the University of the East, she worked as an assistant to the general manager of the Philippine Broadcasting Corporation. She moved to the South Bay in 1953 to start a family and a few years later began a professional career as a singer, recording artist and actress. Her group, "Priscilla Lee and the Filipino Rockets," recorded an album in the late '50s and still gets radio play today. Priscilla also owned and managed five successful Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles, promoted concerts and served as a marketing director for her son's company, Life Force.
Both divorced with grown children, the two decided to join forces in marriage nine years ago. After Don retired several years ago, Priscilla, now 80, took the helm at Hunt Enterprises. Her mission is to preserve the legacy of what her husband worked so hard to achieve. "He is a totally self-made man," Priscilla says.
From the age of 7, Donald began to show his strong work ethic by doing every odd job he could-from delivering newspapers to washing dishes to parking cars to selling ice-for extra money. He also played a horn in the Salvation Army band. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he began selling residential real estate in Michigan, earning top salesman honors. After a move to California, he continued to buy, sell and develop property, eventually acquiring more than 4,000 rentals, along with a plethora of shopping centers and industrial and commercial properties.
Recent hospital stays made the Hunts realize that without good health, hard work, success and wealth hold little meaning. Priscilla asked her husband's physician, Roberto Unguez, MD, an interventional cardiologist, how they could give back in appreciation for her husband's good care at Torrance Memorial. He connected her with the Torrance Memorial Health Care Foundation.
"My grandchildren were born here; my family and husband were hospitalized here," she says. "The doctors really showed compassion toward him and our family. You really get a warm and sincere feeling of trust."
She continues, "The new Patient Tower will be a really great addition to the South Bay that will enrich the health and well-being for all walks of life in this community for decades to come. It feels good to give. We're very proud to be a part of this endeavor.