San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)

Richard Donner


The world has lost a brilliant and beloved Bay Area aquatics legend, Rich Donner.

Richard Charles Donner began his life in San Francisco, the oldest son of Morris and Ethel Donner and brother of Merv whom he has joined in heaven. The family moved from San Francisco to Redwood City and Rich became a star swimmer and water polo player at Sequoia High School.

His aquatics prowess continued at Menlo College and San Jose State. Rich was inducted into Halls of Fame as both an athlete and a coach at Sequoia, San Jose State, and The Olympic Club in San Francisco. He began teaching and coaching at San Carlos High School in 1960, then put the College of San Mateo on the map becoming a swimming and water polo coach and instructor for thirty-eight years. Coach Donner brought home many championsh­ips and produced dozens of All American athletes. He was named Northern California Community College Water Polo Coach of the Year from 1968-1971.

Rich was very proud to honor his Jewish heritage and coached the United States water polo teams at the Maccabiah Games in Israel in 1969 and 1973, bringing home the gold both times.

In his retirement, he co-founded the Peninsula Referees Associatio­n where he served as a referee and leader.

Rich was known for his pursuit of excellence, commitment to family and friends, high standards for himself and others, keen sense of humor, and compassion for everyone he knew.

He was also known for his willingnes­s to take a stand for what was right and as a young man had a quick temper. None of his players wanted to be nearby when his wooden clipboard hit the cement pool deck.

Rich was not only an educator, but served as a father figure to many. He was a great ambassador for the sport of water polo and had a heart of gold. He will be greatly missed.

Rich leaves behind thousands of people who were impacted by his life and the family is grateful for those who offered their love and support to him during his life and five-month battle with cancer.

Rich is survived by his wife of sixty years, Emilie and his daughters, Kathy Donner and Janet Sanchez (Abel) and his grandchild­ren, Brian and Jamie Sanchez.

The family offers gratitude to the doctors and support staff at the Dorothy Schneider Cancer in San Mateo.

Donations may be made in his name to the Sequoia High School Scholarshi­p Fund at 1201 Brewster Avenue, Redwood City, CA 94062.

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