“A dedicated and compassionate caregiver at St. Joseph Hospital for decades, Melvin Schwartz and his wife demonstrated their friendship and support for the Hospital by establishing a legacy through a generous charitable planned gift.”
A legacy of doing good — from the heart
Throughout a winding path from the Philippines to Hollywood, and finally to the South Bay, Priscilla Hunt has committed herself to helping others.
“If you have your health, you have everything,” says Hunt. She still goes to work every day at Hunt Enterprises, a real estate company based in Lawndale. She has also made it her life’s work to give back to causes in which she believes. That includes a $20 million gift to Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance to support its ambitious Cardiovascular Center of Excellence Campaign.
Growing up in the Philippines, Priscilla was the seventh child in a family of 10 and always had her eye on building an empire. She started small, at first selling eggs, then branching out to pineapple, mango and watermelon from a stand in front of her house.
Priscilla’s family wasn’t wealthy, but they were comfortable. “My father always taught us to be humble, kind, generous,” she says. “We were not supposed to eat a piece of candy in front of another child if we didn’t have something to share.” Those lessons stuck deeply as she grew up.
After graduating from the University of the East, she worked as an assistant to the general manager of the Philippine Broadcasting Corporation. In her early 20s, Priscilla moved to the United States and landed in Southern California. She had always been interested in entertainment, and one day, she opened the paper in search of opportunities. “I found an ad looking for someone with an Asian accent to record a version of the song `Tequila,’ this time called `Hot Sake.’” She had to take multiple buses to reach Hollywood, but she booked the job, launching her career as an entertainer.
Her success with “Hot Sake” translated to more opportunities in the music industry (you can still find the records she made with the band The Filipino Rockets on iTunes). She worked as a nightclub singer, heading to work after putting her children to bed and returning late at night.
It was hard work, but she thinks of that difficult time as character-building. “That experience helped me accomplish anything that was put in front of me,” she says. “I am very proud that my children are well-grounded, intelligent—and they are helping in the business.”
Meeting Donald Hunt
Years later, after her first marriage ended in divorce, and her second husband passed away, she picked up a copy of The Daily Breeze and saw a job posting for an executive assistant for Donald Hunt, a local businessman and real estate developer. Upon meeting Donald, who was also widowed with adult children, Priscilla knew immediately that they would work well together. This was 1998, and he had already built Hunt Enterprises into a booming real estate company. But Priscilla thought she could help him do even more.
“He saw something in me,” she says. “He always said, ‘Priscilla is an asset, not a liability,’” she continues, amused by his practicality. The pair married in 2004, and together, they weathered the real estate tsunami of 2008, eventually acquiring more than 4,000 rentals, along with a plethora of shopping centers, industrial and commercial properties. When Donald retired from the business, Priscilla took over.
Over the last few years, Priscilla had turned her attention to caring for Donald, until he passed away on February 8, 2017 at the age of 96. “I still miss my husband a lot, but I really appreciate his trust in me to run the business and his trust in me to carry on his vision,” says Priscilla. “What I am trying to do now is help with hospitals to make sure he has a legacy for helping the community.”
Priscilla directed her gift to support Providence Little Company of Mary’s ambitious Cardiovascular Center of Excellence Campaign. This campaign provided a $35 million investment in new facilities and technology to advance cardiovascular care. The medical center’s Heritage Tower was renamed the Donald & Priscilla Hunt Tower in honor of their landmark donation.
The Important Things in Life
Some of Priscilla’s family and friends question why she doesn’t have more homes or cars. “I have a beautiful house,” she explains. “I’m not into cars. If my car is good, I keep it. To me, a lot of accumulated material things do not make me happy,” she says. “I’m happy giving, and benefiting the community and creating a legacy for my husband.” Priscilla’s eyes well up when she imagines what her beloved Don would think about her recent charitable donations. “I think he’d be very proud that I’m doing this,” she says. “Having the legacy of doing good is the best.” The Hunts also support the Salvation Army and other medical and cultural causes in the South Bay.
Now a great-grandmother (six of her great-grandchildren were born at Providence Little Company of Mary), Priscilla tries to pass on the lessons of generosity—ones she learned from her father—to the next generations. “I take my family to do charitable work so they understand that giving is the real happiness,” she says. “A person will be known for their good deeds,” says Priscilla. “They’ll never be known for what they have. People will know you for the good you have done for others. That’s what it’s all about.”
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Together, we can provide care that transforms lives, now and for years to come.