'I don't think I could ever thank him enough for what he did for me:' Valley remembers David McDonald

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Valley is remembering a businessman and community leader who turned his success into service.

69-year-old former Pelco CEO and philanthropist, David McDonald died on Wednesday at his Prather home.

He turned a small, Clovis security camera company into a multi-billion-dollar, worldwide business -- employing thousands of Valley workers.

McDonald gave generously to causes close to his heart, from the pet adoption center in Clovis, named after his beloved dog, Miss Winkles, to Toys for Tots, to Measure Z to support the Fresno Chaffee Zoo and most recently, his donation to the parks improvement campaign, Measure P which was defeated by voters.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand says he was "shocked and saddened" by the news of the passing of his friend -- and former Fresno mayor Ashley Swearingen says McDonald was a tremendous blessing to our community.

Clovis Police Chief Matt Basgall remembers McDonald's respect for those who protect and serve, "The generosity that he showed in the support that he showed all law enforcement and Public Safety it was crazy and amazing we had never seen anything like that."

That appreciation for first responders led McDonald to bring thousands of New York police and firefighters to the Valley to dedicate the Pelco California Memorial, the largest 9/11 tribute on the West Coast.

One of those firefighters moved to the Valley after that visit, crediting McDonald for his survival in the aftermath of the attacks.

"I don't think I could ever thank him enough for what he did for me. It saved my life," Andy Isolano fought to hold back tears.

As he talked about his nearly two-decade-long friendship with Fresno area philanthropist David McDonald.

"When I got that call this morning it brought me back," he said.

Isolano, a former New York Firefighter, met McDonald in December of 2001.

That is when the former Pelco owner flew Isolano and eleven hundred other 9/11 first responders to his foothills home to show his appreciation for them after the deadly attacks.

"I came to Fresno. It restored my faith in humanity. We were treated like rock stars," he said.

Three years later, Isalono moved across the country to the Central Valley -- continuing his friendship with McDonald.

A Christmas day text captures that bond as they wished each other a Merry Christmas.

And a video of Isolano presenting McDonald with an American flag at the 2018 9/11 ceremony speaks to how much the valley native meant to him.

"He lets me remember my friends but in a good way," he said.

Memories that Isalono has in a book that McDonald gave to him.

A selfless man who he says changed his life for the better.

"I watched way too many little boys with their dad's helmets in their hands... and because of what he did, there was not one more," Isolano said.

At this time it is believed that McDonald died of natural causes.

No word yet on when his services will take place.
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