By Joe Naiman
Bo Donovan, who had been the manager of Ramona Airport for the past six years, died April 24 at the age of 67 after a brief illness.
Donovan, who lived in San Diego Country Estates in Ramona, was also manager of Fallbrook Community Airpark.
“Bo was always quick to laugh, and he brought out the best in everyone around him,” said County Airports Director Pete Drinkwater. “He totally enjoyed his job as airport manager, and he had a passion, an enthusiasm, that made everybody around him energized and feel good. We were extremely sad to hear about Bo’s passing away. He was larger than life, and we’re going to have many fond memories about him and all the wonderful things he did for county airports.”
Bo Donovan was the professional name of Tom Becker, who never legally changed his name. He was born on Dec. 16, 1944, in El Centro and attended Central High School before graduating in 1963. He attended Imperial Valley College, and he began his career as a radio broadcaster in 1964 with the El Centro station KXO.
He became the morning disc jockey of KDES in Palm Springs in 1966. He and his wife, Cova, were married 44 years. They married in Palm Springs on Sept. 9, 1967.
Donovan took flying lessons in Palm Springs before joining a radio station in Sacramento. He also worked in San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Los Angeles again before moving to San Diego in 1976 and transitioning from the broadcasting side of the business to the development of radio jingles and other promotional campaigns.
In 1984, he created Silvertree Inc., a creative services company specializing in music production and radio and
“His life was not just about being an airport manager,” Drinkwater said. “He’s done a whole lot of things. His world was a very broad world of interesting experiences.”
Donovan’s board chairmanships included San Diego Ad Club, Association for Independent Radio Producers, San Diego Advertising Golf Association, and Better Business Bureau’s Advertising Ethics Council.
He was also announcer for the World and National Aerobic Championships and for the Torrey Pines golf tournament, currently called the Farmers Insurance Open.
“I think he was able to address the community because he had so many experiences,” Drinkwater said.
In 2003, the Ramona, Fallbrook, and Borrego airports had a common manager, who at the time was Richard Selinger. Donovan volunteered to assist Selinger with the marketing of the Ramona Air Show in May 2003 and subsequently volunteered to assist Selinger in other functions. He also returned to flying lessons and obtained his pilot’s license.
After Selinger retired in 2004, Fallbrook assistant manager Willie Vasquez became the manager of the three airports, and Donovan was hired as the contract manager of Fallbrook Community Airpark in November 2004. In February 2006 the county gave Silvertree Inc. a management contract for Ramona Airport and Donovan took over management of that facility.
In August 2006 he moved from the Clairemont area of San Diego to San Diego Country Estates.
“He was always able to be counted on to provide great customer service and go the extra mile to help the airport businesses and the people using the airport,” Drinkwater said.
As a Ramona resident, Donovan was appointed to the Ramona Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory Committee and chaired that group’s Community Safety Subcommittee. He also became a member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and the American Association of Airport Executives.
“Bo was certainly known throughout the Ramona community for his professionalism and his generosity,” Drinkwater said.
Shortly after Donovan took over as the Fallbrook airport manager, he hired George Watson, who became the Fallbrook airport manager while Donovan was Ramona’s airport manager.
“He was just on top of everything,” Watson said. “He was one person who would make sure that what was supposed to be done would get done.”
Rachel Carter, hired Ramona Airport assistant manager, is interim Ramona Airport manager. Watson occasionally assist Carter, in which case Steve Perez fills in for Watson at Fallbrook Community Airpark. Cova Becker also works for Silvertree Inc. and is based at Ramona Airport.
“The reality is the company is bigger than he was,” Drinkwater said. “It’s just that he was the personality behind the company.”
The county’s contract with Silvertree Inc. includes a base period and option years.
“We have several option years that can be exercised depending on how Silvertree continues to support the mission,” Drinkwater said.
Silvertree plans to continue management of the two airports.
“The company has made a commitment that they intend to continue to support the mission,” Drinkwater said. “We know there’s a little bit of a transition period here that will take some effort for them to get through. They’re letting us know as they’re addressing it, but they certainly have been responsive.”
“We have to continue doing that, and we have a couple of people who are capable of going through the transition period and we can continue to run the airport in the same manner as Bo did,” Watson said. “No one can replace him, but the work that he was doing, it does have to go on.”
In addition to his wife, Donovan is survived by a son, Shane Becker; a daughter, Jessica Shapiro; his mother, Grace Becker; his sister, Mary Jo Ramsey; and two grandsons, Michael Becker and Jeffrey Sparks.
Plans for services are pending.