Donnie and Jason Eason have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. They don’t just have Lady Luck’s number, they have her on speed dial.
In 1980, Donnie Eason left the Marines after four years in the Corps. “I was newly married and looking for a job,” he recalled. “My mother-in-law got me a job in the supermarket.”
Now, 26 years later, he is still a Union member at Save Mart in Fresno working under a contract provided by UFCW 8-Golden State and President Jacques Loveall.
“It’s a blessing to have a Union job,” Eason said. “My Union benefits are going to let me retire in three years and I’ll be able to spend more time with my grandkids.”
Freddie, Donnie’s wife of 28 years, also is a Union member, employed at Pacific Gas and Electric.
Their 27-year-old son, Jason, has had his own experience with good fortune. When he was a student at UCLA, one of his high school friends entered him, without his knowledge, in a contest for The Gap to find a new clothes model.
“Then, one day, he was just driving down the 405 in Los Angeles when he got a call on his cell phone,” Eason said.
“They said, ‘Congratulations! You’re a finalist in The Gap model contest!’ He was amazed. He said, ‘I never entered the contest!’”
Jason was among six contestants chosen from 600,000 applicants nationwide.
“He was on ‘The View’ and in Newsweek,” Eason said.
But the ride was far from over. Eason came home one day to check his messages and couldn’t believe the name he saw on his caller ID.
It was the Oprah Winfrey Show, asking if Jason would appear. “I don’t even know how they got my phone number,” Donnie said, laughing.
After the Oprah Show and The Gap modeling season ended, Jason needed a new job. A lawyer who worked with him on his modeling for The Gap was Anne Gust, who is married to Jerry Brown. Brown, a former California governor who now serves as the state’s attorney general, was mayor of Oakland at the time and helped Jason get a job as vice principal of the prestigious Oakland School of the Arts.
Then, through one of his UCLA friends, Jason got a job as a writer for Current TV, a new cable network that is partly owned by former Vice President Al Gore. “Jason knows Al first hand,” Eason said.
Jason is now a writer/producer for the Travel Channel. “He just came back from France,” Eason said, laughing. “He goes everywhere.”
Even though his son’s success has taken him far and wide, Donnie still treasures his fatherhood memories of Jason:
“In sixth grade, Jason ran track at Manchester Gate School. I was his coach. Everybody told our kids, ‘You can’t run, you’re too smart,’ because Manchester was a ‘gifted and talented’ school. But our kids just wouldn’t let each other down. Jason and his team set a record for the mile relay that still stands.”
Jason continued to run track through high school, specializing in the Open 400 and the 400 Relay.
“I always told the kids what I believe: never give up, always try hard and it can be done,” Eason said.
“I guess it worked. Jason used to run with Angela Williams, and now she’s an Olympian.”
In his spare time, Eason enjoys spending time with his family, watching baseball and fishing in the ocean.
“My best catch was a 21-inch lin cod,” he said. “But it was one inch short of the legal limit, so I had to throw it back!”