The community lost a friend recently. Bo Donovan, Ramona Airport manager for the past six years, died April 24 at age 67 after a brief illness.
Donovan, whose career started in radio broadcasting, was a master communicator who was comfortable with himself, the public, and the media. He kept the airport in the community’s eye as one of the town’s key assets. Not a person to shine the light on himself, he brought attention to airport happenings and people, whether it was an open house with aerial fanfare and family fun or a visit from a Scout troop or special aircraft. His was an open-door policy, and he was eager to lead anyone interested in learning more about the airport on a tour. He could be relied on to present clear, no-nonsense reports if an accident or other major event occurred, and he remained accessible in emergencies, even sleeping at the airport during the 2007 wildfires.
Donovan made Ramona Airport air-central for the Marines’ annual Toys for Tots drive, turning it into a festive as well as worthwhile event. This past December, a row of 34 bicycles, surrounded by boxes and bags of toys, lined the walkway, and Donovan invited everyone — those arriving on the ground and from the air to donate toys for less fortunate children — to stay awhile, enjoy a hamburger, and visit.
A man who loved his job, he made Ramona his home. He compared managing the airport to managing a city. “We have law enforcement issues, we have regulatory issues, we have tenant issues, we have security issues, we have safety issues, we have infrastructure here. We’re just like a little city,” he told the Sentinel last year, providing a new perspective of the airport.
As airport manager, Donovan saw community outreach as one of his duties, and he seemed to relish it. If asked, he’d arrive at a meeting with a thorough presentation about the airport, from its early days in the 1940s to plans for the future. When the call went out for a sheriff’s citizens advisory group in Ramona, Donovan volunteered and served as chairman of its Community Safety Subcommittee. When the Main Street Parade returned last May, he was in it.
He viewed safety as a top priority. Next came serving the community. He welcomed everyone and encouraged residents and visitors to bring their children and grandchildren to the viewing area to watch the planes take off and land.
“I am here to serve not only the people here at the airport, people that are coming to and from the airport, the aviators — but the community,” he said in a Sentinel interview.
He was a true friend to Ramona, and his death, which came as a surprise to many who can’t imagine the airport without him, leaves a void.