Alex Madonna

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Obituary

ALEX MADONNA 1918-2004; A LEGEND OF OUR TIME SELF-MADE MAN MIXED SHREWD BUSINESS SENSE WITH GIVING NATURE



Alex Madonna, whose highway construction, cattle ranches, philanthropy and world-famous Madonna Inn made him a legendary figure on the Central Coast and beyond, died Thursday, April 22, of an apparent heart attack. He was 85.

Madonna, the grandson of Swiss immigrants, befriended business colleagues, politicians, educators, employees and even actor John Wayne. He was a self-made man who loomed large in the public's consciousness. His easy sense of humor, fierce independence and, at times, dogged stubbornness further distinguished him.

He influenced hundreds of people and gave millions of dollars away quietly. For that he will be sorely missed, said relatives, friends and colleagues.

Besides the inn, his empire consisted of the Froom Ranch property where San Luis Obispo's Home Depot is located, Broadway Plaza shopping center in Santa Maria, and several thousand acres of property in San Luis Obispo County, including about 2,000 acres surrounding San Luis Mountain. He also owned cattle and horse ranches around California and Oregon.

Among ranchers, Madonna was often referred to as "the host from the coast."

Madonna's construction firm built or repaved most of Highway 101 from Salinas to south of Buellton, as well as about 70 miles of Highway 46 and Highway 41 from Cholame to Fresno. As well, Madonna had a hand in resurfacing much of Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Carmel.

The inn itself was a major achievement. Famous for its pink decor, themed rooms and whimsical waterfall urinal in the men's restroom, the Swiss

chalet-style hotel has welcomed

thousands of guests from around the world since its debut in December

1958. Madonna hosted hundreds of

dignitaries, such as NBC's Tom Brokaw, CBS "60 Minutes" creator Don

Hewitt, Washington Post columnist David Broder and former Associated Press President Lou Boccardi.

He put family, friends and community first, giving millions of dollars to organizations and schools. Madonna gave to the local county women's shelter, supported Catholic education and was a benefactor to Cal Poly students, hosting lunches every year honoring Cal Poly sports teams and athletes. He also supported the Cal Poly rodeo program and 4-H.

Survivors include his wife Phyllis; sister, LaVerne Osborne; daughters Cathie Twisselman, Karen Twisselman and Connie Pearce; son, John Madonna; grandchildren Caleb, Teale, Tara, Tristan, Sterling and Alexis Twisselman, Audrey and Dalton Pearce, and Serafina and Giovanna Madonna; sons-in-law Rowly and Tim Twisselman, and Clint Pearce; and daughter-in-law, Susan Madonna.

A rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, at Mission San Luis Obispo. A Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 29, at the church. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Women's Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo County, Hospice Partners of the Central Coast or Hospice of San Luis Obispo County. A special fund is also being established to create a scholarship or monument in Alex Madonna's memory for his many contributions to agriculture; those contributions can be mailed to Alex Madonna Memorial Fund, c/o Jo Ann Switzer, P.O. Box 302, Paso Robles, CA 93447.

Published in San Luis Obispo County Tribune on Apr. 27, 2004
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