Growing up in Kansas City, Kan., middle-child Donna Reardon’s eyes were forever on the farthest horizon.
“I wanted to travel,” Reardon says.
An energetic girl with little interest in school, she set her sights skyward and was quickly brought down to earth.
“TWA wasn’t hiring,” she says, simply. “I was going to have to find my own way to see the world.”
She took her first bold step in that direction shortly out of high school. “I won a 30-hour dance marathon for muscular dystrophy. The prize was a trip to Florida.”
Florida was a long way from Kansas City, but still far short of her ambitions. When a friend found work on Saint Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Reardon immediately began charting a southerly course. Her friend quickly moved to scuttle the plan.
“She told me not to come down. She said there were no jobs and no place to live. But she’d already sent me pictures of palm trees and white beaches,” Reardon smiles. “I changed my Florida ticket for Saint Croix.”
Reardon quickly found a job, and a place to live, and a passion strong enough to carry her all the way around the world.
“I fell in love with the ocean, and with sailing. I don’t know if it has anything to do with it, but I’m a Scorpio, and that’s a water sign.” She signed on first with a marlin fishing crew, then took a berth aboard a charter boat running snorkelers out to the Buck Island Reef National Monument. She learned the ways of wind and wave, and to navigate by sun and star.
When the opportunity arose to deliver a yacht to Europe, she took it, and was for 30 days a cork upon the restless Atlantic. When that commission was accomplished, she spent a spell sailing among the storied ports of the wine-dark Mediterranean. And when at last her captain pointed his bow west toward the Pillars of Hercules and home, she jumped ship. “I wasn’t done,” she says. “I spent a month on the Rock of Gibraltar, then found my own way home.”
Reardon’s nautical career reached its high-water mark in 1983, with a voyage Down Under to witness the United States’ first-ever trouncing in the America’s Cup yacht race in Perth. She had seen the world, or at least a very big piece of it, and could feel a sea-change coming. The sailor’s rootless existence might be well and good for a girl, but Reardon wasn’t a girl anymore.
Shouldering her seabag for the last time, Reardon returned stateside and started casting about for more grounded adventures. She studied massage therapy, but found work better suited to her naturally enthusiastic nature on the trade show circuit, promoting, among other things, cookware, spas and zesty condiments.
“I was the Salsa Queen,” she laughs.
In 1989 she traveled across the rolling prairie sea to landlocked Colorado, finally dropping anchor among the lodgepoles atop Brook Forest.
“After standing in 10-by10 booths at trade shows for so many years, I really needed an oasis.”
But if Reardon had a port to call home, she was still very much a woman in motion as her work took her to cities from coast to coast. It was 1992 before she could actually move into her mountain oasis, launch a home-based business and start to learn the ways of sedentary folk.
“I didn’t really know the town very well because I was always out of town.”
The same bold spirit that made her an able sailor, and the same out-going nature that served her so well at trade shows, have made Reardon a welcome addition to her adopted community. A philanthropist at heart, she consistently earmarks a share of her health and wellness business proceeds for local nonprofits. She was on hand for the first Big Chili Cook-off in 2002, and last year helped concoct that contest’s 3rd Place red. She’s swung a hammer for Blue Spruce Habitat for Humanity and served on its Hard Hats and High Heels committee.
No sooner had Reardon come ashore in Brook Forest than she threw herself into the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce with a will. She’s served on numerous committees from Sparkle & Shine, to Taste of Evergreen, to the Lunch Bunch Leads Group. She’s been a tireless chamber ambassador, helping Evergreen’s merchant cadets navigate the local commercial waters, and in 2012 was named the organization’s Ambassador of the Year.
“You spend one full year with a new member and help them get oriented. I’ve attended a lot of ribbon-cuttings.”
And just last year Reardon earned that most singular of local credentials, graduating with the Leadership Evergreen Class of 2013. But all work and no play has never been Reardon’s style, and she’s found Evergreen to be an oasis well-suited to her active temperament. Hiking and horseback riding are among her favorite off-duty pursuits, and she returns to the water every summer for the Evergreen Lake Summer Concert Series.
“This is a great community where people help each other,” she says. “Evergreen has a friendly, small-town feel.”
And it’s her much-loved home. But there’s still a touch of the old wanderlust running in Reardon’s veins, and a craving for trade winds and swaying palms.
“I still love to travel,” she smiles. “And I wouldn’t mind having a little beach house somewhere.”