Ken Dondero Ken Dondero, 74 years old, father of two, passed away Friday morning, January 17, 2014, peacefully in his sleep after a brief, but brave struggle with health issues. Ken was born February 26, 1939 in Brockton, Massachusetts to parents Hazel and Alfred Dondero. He moved to California in 1960. Ken had a robust career in drag racing, driving for some of the biggest names in Pro Stock, where, among other achievements, he won two World Cup Championships. He later opened Dondero Tire in Costa Mesa, California before opening Ken's Auto in Tulare, California, which he operated for 30 years, where his humble and courteous nature endeared him to many in the community. The following quote is by Dave Wallace, Jr., editor of Hot Rod Deluxe Magazine: "As a drag racer, Ken Dondero will be remembered as the last winning four-speed driver in a Gas Supercharged car, the Anglia owned by his former B/Gas rival in central California, Bob Panella. Over breakfast summer in Tulare's Apple Annie's restaurant, Ken revealed that he acquired his incomparable clutch skills by power-shifting every farm and street vehicle he drove as a kid, practicing literally everywhere he went. Panella rates him as 'one of the best two four-speed guys I've ever seen; every bit as good as Ronnie Sox, if not even better.' Ken was also that rare sports figure to come out of retirement and reach his prior level of success-repeatedly. Ken's combination of mechanical and physical abilities earned nationwide fame at three different stages of his life, in three decades: driving Panella's Anglia in the 1960's, the Bill Jenkins-owned Pro Stock Vega that won back-to-back AHRA championships in the 70's, and Panella's Pro Stockers in the 80's, after which he turned his full attention to building a successful auto and tire business in Tulare. Of his constant cross-country touring as Jenkins's one-man AHRA and match-race team, he liked to say, 'I've changed more motors in motel parking lots than most people have seen motors.' Last but not least, Ken Dondero was one of the nicest guys this reporter ever encountered. His friendly demeanor never seemed to vary, whether on or off the track. This one hurts." - DWjr He is survived by his children Ricky and Cheryl Dondero, granddaughter Ashley Troncale and great grandson Merrick Troncale. His siblings Wayne Dondero, Richard Dondero, Audrey Hodges and Valarie Seymore. Memorial Services will be held at 12:00 noon on Saturday, January 25th, 2014 at Saint Rita's Catholic Church in Tulare, CA.
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Published in Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Adv-Register on Jan. 21, 2014