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RIP, David McDonald: A Giant in Local Business and Philanthropy
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 5 years ago on
January 3, 2019

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David McDonald, who had a giant impact on the Fresno area as a businessman and philanthropist, died Wednesday morning at his Prather home.
Fresno County deputies responded to a call for medical assistance at about 9 a.m. McDonald, 69, later passed away, apparently of natural causes, according to the sheriff’s office.
McDonald, a heavy smoker throughout his life, had struggled recently with respiratory problems, friends said.

“His goal was to do things that would lift up the community for generations.” — Former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry
“God decided to take him home,” said former Fresno Mayor Alan Autry. “He was a good man — not just a rich man.”
On Thursday, Fresno Mayor Lee Brand and City Manager Wilma Quan-Schecter ordered the Fresno flag at City Hall lowered to half-staff in McDonald’s honor through Monday, Jan. 7.
McDonald built Pelco, which made security cameras, into a manufacturing powerhouse after moving it from southern California to Fresno in the early 1980s. He and his partners sold the company to a French firm, Schneider Electric, for about $1.5 billion in 2007.
David McDonald stands alongside Alan Autry and Larry Powell in this file photo from November 6, 2018.
Among McDonald’s many civic contributions:
— He led the successful effort to pass a county-wide sales tax to support the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The sales tax transformed the zoo into an attraction that now brings visitors from throughout the United States and foreign countries.
— Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he flew planes to New York City that picked up first-responders and brought them back to the Valley for an event honoring their heroism. He also built the California Memorial at Pelco in Clovis, where a 9/11 remembrance is held annually.
— He contributed $2 million to build the Miss Winkles Pet Adoption Center in Clovis. The shelter was named after a deceased pet terrier that McDonald had adopted.
Most recently, McDonald led the unsuccessful effort to pass a city sales tax for Fresno parks. He donated $850,000 to the campaign.
“David didn’t seek attention,” Autry said. “His goal was to do things that would lift up the community for generations.”
“David was born and raised of humble beginnings but was determined to leave this world a better place because of his life and his contributions. Pelco, the company he grew into a recognized world leader within its industry is just one testament to his commitment and success.” — McDonald family statement
McDonald’s family released this statement Wednesday afternoon:
“It is with a great deal of sadness and a heavy heart that the family of David McDonald is announcing his sudden death of natural causes this morning. David was a true patriot, businessman, philanthropist, and believer of the American spirit and dream. His great joy was providing his personal support to the many causes that touched his heart, including The Fresno Chaffee Zoo, both Measure Z campaigns, the 9/11 California Memorial, Toys for Tots, Special Education Days at Pelco, Miss Winkles Pet Adoption Center, and many, many more.
“David was born and raised of humble beginnings but was determined to leave this world a better place because of his life and his contributions. Pelco, the company he grew into a recognized world leader within its industry is just one testament to his commitment and success. Aside from family, David leaves behind many friends, associates, and former employees who he was eternally grateful for their support, trust and friendship. He will be greatly missed.
“The family requests privacy in their time of grief.”

Mayor Lee Brand’s Statement

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand tweeted his condolences early Wednesday evening.

Former Mayor Swearengin Tweets Thoughts on McDonald

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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