George Dondero celebrates his 107th birthday with four of his 11 great-grandchildren at Aljoya Mercer Island on Oct. 7. In the back are Nick and Lucas Edwards; in front of them are Jack and Harper Flanagan. Courtesy photo

George Dondero celebrates his 107th birthday with four of his 11 great-grandchildren at Aljoya Mercer Island on Oct. 7. In the back are Nick and Lucas Edwards; in front of them are Jack and Harper Flanagan. Courtesy photo

Mercer Island’s Dondero turns 107 on 10/7

He visits with family at party and on Zoom calls.

George Dondero gives six workout machines a go every day at the Aljoya Mercer Island retirement community.

He yanks the machines up to their top resistance and knocks off 200 reps on one and 60 on the others.

He is 107 years old.

A day after Dondero’s latest birthday on Oct. 7, he thought about the key to living so long.

“I wish I knew … I don’t have anything that hurts,” said Dondero, noting that his hearing and eyesight aren’t what they used to be.

During a small birthday celebration at Aljoya with some family members, Dondero participated in several Zoom calls with more family and friends.

“It was the best way to have a birthday party, to talk to people you haven’t seen for years,” he said.

Daughter Barbara Duval attended the gathering and said her father had a good time telling stories about his life.

“He put into 50 years of his than most of us could put into if we had 100,” she said, noting that Dondero has 11 great-grandchildren.

Duval described her father as energetic, curious and confident. He helped build the resort at Sugar Bowl ski resort in California, where he took a photo of actress Janet Leigh that got her discovered in Hollywood. During the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, he and his family members became ill, but survived.

“He loves to solve problems and always comes up with a solution. He’s a very inspirational person,” Duval said.

The San Francisco-born Dondero was an inventor and holds many patents, including a release-free ski binding, a sailboat table that snaps on and swivels, ski tie grips and more.

During World War II, he was an essential worker while making wooden patterns for metal casting in foundries. Later, at Smith Sport Optics, he made seven goggle models, and developed new products for JT USA for motocross and paintball. He was also a swimmer, skier and ice dancer.

At Aljoya — where Dondero has resided since 2009 — executive director Marla Becker said that the 107-year-old is “constantly coming into my office with many ideas that we put into operations because they’re always worthwhile.”

Dondero is an avid bocce ball player and made a special broom to clean the courts.

He keeps those workout machines busy as well.


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