People : Donald Prieto
Donald “ Elvis ” Prieto
Walking in Graceland
When I was a kid , I wanted to be Elvis .
Like many kids my age , I dreamed of one day becoming the King of Rock and Roll . I would run around the house singing Elvis songs at the top of my lungs . My first album I ever purchased was “ Blue Hawaii ” However , becoming Elvis was a dream I never realized .
For Donald Prieto , our lifelong friend and community champion , it was a dream come true . As a kid , Donald also played Elvis songs and danced around the house . The difference is , he never stopped .
Donald was south county ’ s very own King of Rock and Roll . As an Elvis tribute artist , he spread love and joy by way of great music , slick moves and costumes — and even slicker hair — just like the King himself . For almost 30 years , Donald shared his talent and love for Elvis at birthday gigs and bachelorette parties , anniversaries and retirement celebrations . He performed at senior centers and public venues . He played the Garlic Festival , and he played Vegas . At his family ’ s Victoria ’ s Restaurant in Gilroy , he hosted weekly karaoke nights . Yet , most dear to many who knew him was his selfless nature and endless contributions to local causes .
In a former life I served as entertainment chair for Gilroy ’ s Relay for Life — a 24 hour walk relay event to raise awareness and funds for the fight against cancer . One of the first calls I made was to Donald . I came up with an elaborate plan to bring him into the event in an SUV , then run up on stage and start his set . I purposely kept his appearance a secret so we could surprise the crowd for the opening ceremony . Donald went along with the plan like the pro I knew him to be . When he popped out of the car in front of the stage and over 500 attendees , the place erupted with cheers
and chants of “ Elvis , Elvis ” and “ Donald , Donald ” It was wild and fun . He got on stage and completely entertained the crowd . Many sang along , others got up and danced . I just stood in the wings and admired the man . He fought with grace like no other , he loved people , and he loved to perform .
By this time , Donald was not only known as Elvis . He was also known as a partner in his family ’ s business , Victoria ’ s restaurant in Gilroy . Victoria ’ s is a place you can find great food — and karaoke . Most important , when you ’ re there , you feel like part of the family . If you knew Donald , you were family . Diagnosed at the age of seven with “ Juvenile Brittle Diabetes ” a rare insulin-dependent form of the disease , Donald battled for his health his entire life . He underwent two kidney transplants as an adult , and was hoping for his third , one donated by the Jim Marks family of Gilroy after the tragic loss of their son , Robert in 2021 . However , tests revealed a blockage in Donald ’ s heart . The third transplant was not to be .
Never one to let his health or any other challenge slow him down , Donald just kept doing life . There was no quit in his soul . He was one of my heroes , one of those persons I looked up to for inspiration . I admired him for always volunteering his time , sharing his talents , and donating his treasures to local causes , despite the many times he was ill and not feeling up to it . Instead , he was always upbeat and willing to go the extra mile for others . In 2019 , I was fortunate to do a little work with a team of filmmakers on a short film starring Donald as Elvis for the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival . On screen or off , Donald had a heart of gold . He had the heart of a King .
As a fan , a friend and collaborator , I am grateful to have known Donald Prieto . He ’ s left a legacy of love and perseverance , determination and selfless living for his daughter Presley , his family , and a grateful community .
Now he ’ s walking in Graceland , just as it should be . Godspeed , Donald . And thank you .
gmhtoday . com gmhTODAY Magazine SUMMER 2021 21