Sally Anne and Don Sheridan: long story short

By DIANNE RUSSELL

“You want the long version or the short version?” said Sally Anne Sheridan when asked about her spectacular Easter Garden. Every aspect of Don and Sally Anne’s time together – this year they will be married 46 years – has either a lengthy or abbreviated version.

The stories unfold in rapid succession – as told by the Sheridans in a sort of loving sparring match – each filling in details of a long and combined history. It’s soon evident their collaboration in life is one filled with adventures and accomplishments.

The partnership is also a tale of unexpected encounters, resilience and traditions, lots of them. “People said the marriage would never last,” Sally Anne said, and explained the reasons. Don is younger than Sally Anne and at the time they met, she was a single mother of three. (Cindy, Laurie and William).

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Sally Anne and Don at their front door

But back to the garden, which is a fitting example of their devoted and enduring relationship. “Each year Don creates a new Easter Garden for me,” Sally Anne said. “It’s our tradition.”

“I start planting new flowers about a month before Easter. I pick what’s hardy and survives,” he said. By the looks of the lush garden, much has remained. (They also have a memorial garden in their backyard.)

This annual gesture doesn’t come as a surprise for a couple who starts each day at 5:30 a.m. with coffee, prayers, a list of “shitty” tasks to do before the fun begins, and most importantly by asking each other, “What could I do for you that would make this the best day possible?”

The early years

Although they described their childhoods as parallel, “We were free range kids,” Sally said. Don was raised in Southern California and Sally Anne grew up in Pleasantville, N.Y.

In the years leading up to their chance encounter, Sally Anne graduated from Columbia with a nursing degree and during her career was part of an open-heart surgery team at Boston Children’s Hospital. The move to California came about when her then husband, a physician, got a position at UCI. She soon became involved in the HOA at University Park, her first foray into community and government services.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

On the porch overlooking the Easter Garden

In 1971, Sally Anne’s community involvement went into high gear. “Irvine was incorporated, and I was asked to be on the Community Services Commission,” she said. “I served on the commission from 1971-1984, much of the time as chair.” In 1974, as part of the Community Service Master Plan, she got $18,000,000 to develop the park system. “We wrote a park plan and then went out and passed a bond issue to get the parks built: Turtle Rock Park and Nature Center, first public zip line, Harvard Avenue ballpark, Heritage Park with Olympic Swimming Pool, Fine Arts Center, Childcare Center, Teen Center, Senior Center and many others.” However, one dream of Sally Anne’s did not come to fruition, a performing arts theater.

During this time, she was approached by a group made up of members of the Hobie skateboard team, and they wanted a skateboard park. “They said you build all these parks for little kids, and you don’t like teenagers. They wanted a skatepark,” Sally Anne said. “The park attracted a lot of attention from skateboard manufacturers.” She was asked to head up a new international organization to govern skateboarding (ISA). “We established a rule book, and we hosted competitions.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Don’s father’s skateboard design

Enter Don Sheridan, who was a co-partner in a surf and skateboard shop in Rolling Hills Estates called Kanoa and the shop sponsored a skateboard team.

“Sally Anne was on the Community Services Commission, and she was the park lady in Irvine and had designed all the parks, and did all the equipment,” Don said. “At the time we (Kanoa) had a Z flex sponsored A-Team, so we had all these kids who were skating in Sally’s contest, and I had no idea who she was. I was at a skate park in Torrance that had just opened with Tony Alva, pioneer of vertical skateboarding and one of the original members of the Zephyr Competition Skateboarding Team. We were sitting on the side of the hill and David Horowitz, who was doing a television program, walked by and I asked Tony, ‘who’s the lady in the blue dress with him?’”

“Tony said, ‘It’s Sally Miller, the head of the ISA. You write big checks to her every month so we can skate in the competitions.”

Sometime later, at a competition in Scottsdale, Ariz., the two connected and they were married in 1978 – by a friend who was a judge. Years later, they were remarried in their backyard by Fr. Eamon O’Gorman.

However, as time went by Sally Anne couldn’t let go of her dream to have a performing arts theater in Irvine.

Click on photo for a larger image

Courtesy of the Sheridans

Dressed up for an event in Irvine

Click open story button to continue reading…

“Don said, either run for city council and get that theater built or keep quiet,” Sally Anne shared. “But the money was gone and there was no location.”

In the early 1980s she was elected to the City Council (serving as mayor in 1990 and 1993). “Jack Peltason, the Chancellor of UCI, would give them the land if they raised the money to build it and operate it,” she said. “We did and the Barclay Theater was opened in 1990.”

At the opening performance, her daughter Laurie came from New York with her partner and danced The Black Swan pas de deux from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

Both her girls had a passion for ballet early on and studied with Lila Zali at Laguna Beach Civic Ballet Company. At 15 and 16, they were accepted into the San Francisco Ballet Company. Cindy then went on to the Joffrey Ballet in New York and Laurie to the American Ballet Theater.

Laguna connection

Sadly, after the boon of skateboarding, its popularity waned, and the ISA shut down. Luckily, Don had his real estate license and soon Sally Anne got hers. With Don’s business sense and Sally Anne’s connections, they had a very successful real estate career. “We sold the worst houses in the best neighborhoods and were known as the fixer uppers,” Don said. “We had a list of 50-60 tradespeople we worked with over the years. People would say here are my keys, we’ll be back in a few months and leave us to do the remodeling.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Sally Anne is an avid reader. This is the room where she and Don start each day.

Over the years, Sally Anne had become very familiar with Laguna. “I drove the girls down to the Laguna Beach Civic Ballet Company seven days a week from Irvine. Between lessons, rehearsals and performances, I was on Laguna Canyon Road every day,” she said. “I got to know all the shopkeepers and that’s where I got my jewelry. I played tennis at the festival grounds sometimes while they were in classes.”

Don has fond memories of Laguna as well.

“My beginning in Laguna was when I was 8 years old,” he said. “In Long Beach, my very best friend lived one house away. His dad was a doctor and mine was a lawyer. In the summertime, his parents came to the Riviera here in Laguna for a month and I came with them. We got to run wild.”

“When we first came here from Massachusetts, I wanted to live in Laguna, but my husband said, ‘I’m a doctor at UCI and it’s too far for me to drive back and forth, so we settled in Irvine,” said Sally Anne.

In 1988, the Sheridans got their first taste of living near the beach at the trailer park at El Morro. Don recalled the story, “After some Champagne one night, Sally Anne said, ‘Honey, I don’t care how tiny it is, I would be the happiest person in the world if I could have a house on the ocean.’ A week later, I bought her a trailer at El Morro. All our friends came there to visit. We were on the tunnel, third or fourth, and it was exactly 97 steps from our trailer to where we put our chairs in the sand. We stayed there from 1988 until 1997 when we bought this house. That’s when we started to go to St. Catherine’s Church.”

The trailer was remodeled to look like Ruby’s (they knew the owner), and they called it Pee Wee’s Playhouse. “We even had a mailbox a woman made for us that looked like Ruby’s.”

Miraculously, the trailer survived the fire in 1993. “On October 27, the fireman said get the hell out of here, you’ve got five minutes. It was a beautiful day. I grabbed our picture album and my surfboards, and we left. A friend, who had a trailer here too, watered ours down, and the trailer was okay.”

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Playing “Kings in the Corner” which they do several times a week and bet on the games. Note the jar filled with money.

But then in 1997, they toured the house, built in 1940, they now live in. Although it was in deplorable condition, Sally admitted, “I liked the shape of it.”

To make it work, however, they had to sell their Irvine home (which had a magical backyard designed by Jack Eschbach) and Pee Wee’s Playhouse. Both immediately sold (the trailer to good friends) and after some refurbishing, they moved into the new house. They have since remodeled the bathroom (in 2000) and the gourmet chef’s kitchen (2002).

Future

Sally Anne and Don retired in 2016. “It was time,” Don said. “We had such wonderful clients, amazing people. We’ve sold to multiple generations – parents and their kids. In one family, we sold to three generations. We had a lot of repeat business and that’s why we didn’t need to advertise.”

One might think, they would now slow down a bit. Not so. They play pickleball, take cruises, play golf and more. “If we get hooked on something, we just go do it,” Sally Anne said. “We’ve been to several different cooking schools and Don is the chef, he cooks every night. We belonged to three tennis clubs, then we took up pickleball. We love it and play around three times a week. After we took lots of golf lessons, we decided to play crummy golf at the best 100 golf courses in the world.”

“We’re up to around 70. We’ve played Pinehurst, in New Zealand, Ireland and played every course in Hawaii,” Don added. “We’re going to play soon in Utah with some friends. I’d also like to play the sea islands in Georgia.”

Rarely idle, they’ve taken multiple Windstar cruises and endless trips. Sally Anne frequently attends Barclay Theatre performances and is especially partial to the dance performances.

They also spend time with their grandchildren, Cole and Ella, who are in college.

On Sundays, they have friends over for food and fun.

This brief recounting of their life together qualifies as the short version of a long story – one that just keeps getting longer. As Sally Anne said, “Life is full of surprises.”


Slide
Slide
Slide 3
Slide 4


Slide

Slide

Slide