Donald E. Ferrara
1926 - 2021
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Nov. 23, 1926 - Feb. 16, 2021 Donald Eugene Ferrara passed from his epic life of 94 years on February 16, 2021 in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA from natural causes. Don's youthful spirit embodied the vitality that comes with following his many passions, which kept that sparkle in his eyes well into his 90's. A Renaissance man who wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty, Don was always eager and ready for the many adventures in his long life. A lifelong resident of Los Angeles, Don was the youngest child born to Joseph and Camille Ferrara on November 23, 1926 in the front room of his family home located near 97th & Figueroa. Don and his siblings, Elinor, Jayne, and Joe Jr., lived a simple Depression Era childhood where Don worked odd jobs to help the family make ends meet, including shining shoes, resetting pins at a bowling alley, and selling programs at the USC games in the Coliseum during the 1930's. Don attended Washington High School where he excelled in drafting, and worked in the afternoons at the Douglas Aircraft plant in El Segundo welding the bomb racks on the SBD Dauntless dive bomber for $.75 an hour. In fall 1944, Don left high school early senior year to enlist for naval duty in World War II as an Aviation Metal Smith. Upon his return from the war in 1946, Don worked at Speedo-Tach in DTLA where he learned to build car dashboard gauges and instruments. Considered one of the pioneers of the Southern California "Hot Rod" car culture of the 1940's and 1950's, Don was a self-taught master craftsman who designed and hand fabricated custom body work and tuck-and-roll upholstery. Best known for his red 1929 Ford Model A V8 Roadster in which he was clocked by Rusetta at a speed of 121 mph at El Mirage Dry Lakes, Don's Roadster was famed for its chromed louvers, large chromed side pipes and custom dashboard, and took 1st place at the 1950 LA Car Show, was featured on the August 1951 cover of Hot Rod Magazine, and was driven by a young Charles Bronson in the 1953 Warner Bros Film Noir movie "Crime Wave". Don's other famous creations include a customized 1949 Ford and Glenwood ski boat, both featured on the October 1953 cover of "Honk!" Magazine and placed 1st in the boat and car division at the 1954 Los Angeles Motorama Show. Don also did the interior upholstery of the George Barris customized 1963 "Asteroid" Corvette Sting Ray, as commissioned by his brother-in-law Bob Nordskog. In 1951, Don joined the Los Angeles City Fire Department where he served the public quietly as an everyday hero for 28 years; 14 of those years were at Fire Station 49 on Fire Boat 4 in the LA Harbor, where he was a frogman until his retirement in 1979. Don was at the Bel-Air Fire, the Watts Riots, and the explosion of the super-tanker Sansinena in the LA Harbor. He made lifelong friends in the Fire Department and always said it was the best job in the world. In 1955, Don met the beautiful Patty Jo Dibben while water skiing at Marine Stadium in Long Beach, CA. They eloped to Las Vegas and were married in October 1956. They had four children: Darcy, Darren, Deanne, and Dino, and raised their family in the ocean view house Don custom built for them in the South Shores area of San Pedro, CA. Don was an active father and shared his athletic hobbies with his children, teaching them to water ski and snow ski on the many family camping trips to Bass Lake, The River, Mt. Baldy, and Mammoth, creating wonderful family memories. As if he wasn't busy enough with his growing family and working 24-hour shifts at the fire station, Don became a self-taught real estate entrepreneur. Although he had no formal education, Don purchased his first piece of property in 1953, got his real estate license in 1959, and over the next 50 years, with plenty of hustle and his own two hands for all the physical labor, he built a diverse Southern California real estate portfolio that included apartment and industrial properties, a marina, and cell tower sites. A gifted athlete, Don was an avid body builder as a young adult and was featured in the October 1954 "Tomorrow's Man" fitness magazine. A skilled water skier, Don participated in the grueling Catalina Ski Race a total of five times during the 1950's, placing 3rd in 1955. Don was a lifetime member of the National Ski Patrol stationed out of Mt. Baldy, CA, and enjoyed snow skiing well into his 80's. Having retired from LAFD when he was just 53 years old, Don's youthful attitude served him well during his 41 wonderful years of retirement! Don survived a Lymphoma cancer diagnosis when he was in his early 60's because of his "iron will" and "nothing fazes me" attitude. He got his private pilot's license and savored many hours in the air over California, but truly cherished the camaraderie and life long friendships he shared with his Torrance Airport buddies. At the age of 74, Don bought a red Fireman's Edition Harley Davidson Motorcycle, joined the LAFD Fire Hogs Motorcycle Club, and rode his Hog until the age of 84! Fiercely independent, he lived alone and continued to drive his red Fireman's Edition Corvette until the age of 93. He loved jazz, the blues, and Frank Sinatra, and enjoyed hearing live music during Happy Hour at his favorite South Bay watering holes, where he was quick to make friends and buy a round of drinks. Don was one of the last remaining members of the Greatest Generation of Americans, the likes of which will not be seen again. But Don's most noteworthy accomplishment was being an amazing father, grandfather, and friend to everyone he met, and he leaves us with wonderful memories of a life well lived. An Epic Life, now an Eternal Legend. Don is pre-deceased by all his siblings, as well as his eldest daughter, Darcy (in 1999). Don is survived by his ex-wife, Patricia Jo Ferrara, and three children; daughter Deanne (Gerald Iacono); sons, Darren Ferrara and Dean Ferrara; He is also survived by his three grandchildren whom he adored, Philip, Claire, and Olivia Iacono; sister in law, Gloria Ferrara; his nephew, Gerald Nordskog (Gail); Niece, Carla Nordskog Wales; as well as numerous great-nephews and great-nieces who will always fondly remember their Uncle Don. A Celebration of Life will be held when Covid restrictions have eased. Donations can be made in Don's memory to the Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firefighters Fund, PO Box 41903, Los Angeles, CA 90041 (

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Published in Palos Verdes Peninsula News on Apr. 25, 2021.
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May 3, 2021
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April 30, 2021
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Carla & family
April 29, 2021
Uncle Don to me! I think his life was covered well. I remember Uncle Don & Uncle Joe throwing me across the living room when a childlike I was the ball! Uncle Don was always active & helped save people on the ski slopes & of course fire fighting! He loved life & was involved in everything!! I've missed him over the last several years, having moved away. Sending love & blessing to the family, Cousin Carla
Carla Wales
April 28, 2021
I count myself as one of his Torrance Airport buddies and will remember him for his generosity at lunches as a great tipper, especially at "Mr G's" where especially admired the work ethic of the owner. His mind remained sharp, sadly we all missed him in his last year because of the pandemic.
Dick Smith
April 25, 2021
Deepest condolences to the Ferrara family and their loved ones. Thank you for the GREAT MEMORIES in South Shores.

Dennis Harrington
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