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Lorna MacDonald fell in love with St. Augustine as soon as her feet hit the shore.
When Alex and Tristan MacDonald sailed into the St. Augustine City Marina in July of 1980, it was love at first sight and in more ways than one. While they fell immediately in love with the city itself, daughter Lorna was smitten not only with St. Augustine, but also with the dockmaster. One thing led to another, the family purchased a small Spanish restaurant called Casa de Espana, the Raintree Restaurant was born, and Lorna and the MacDonald family became an integral part of the St. Augustine community. So integral in fact, that MacDonald is now the 2017 recipient of the 20th annual Gus Craig Award, which is given every year to a longtime resident who has contributed to the area and upheld the ideas, morals and Christian teachings of The Salvation Army.
That initial love for St. Augustine continued to grow and Lorna’s family roots now run deep in the nation’s oldest city. During her early years, she was very involved with the family business, but also spent a lot of time at home on Valencia Street in downtown St. Augustine, where she raised Zach and Brittany, her children with then-husband Bryan Fraser. “We loved to go camping and really enjoyed all kinds of outdoor activities,” she recalled. “Zach is now a manager at the Raintree and Brittany is an attorney.” In 2007, MacDonald married Chris Cantabene and, as she says, “doubled her wealth in children.” Cantabene is the Chef at the Raintree and a general contractor. Daughter Caitlan is a paralegal and daughter Chelsea is a sophomore at Tallahassee Community College., majoring in theatre.
Longtime friend Ned Pollack, owner of Ned’s Southside Kitchen, has known MacDonald since before the Raintree even opened. “She and her family put St. Augustine on the map as far as going out to eat for folks from Jacksonville and the surrounding areas. They started it all, and MacDonald hasn’t stopped. She continues to do a lot for this community, and she just doesn’t make a big deal out of it.” Pollack speaks from personal experience. When his restaurant had to close temporarily a few years back due to a fire, MacDonald hired his displaced employees until they could get back to their regular jobs. His reaction to the Gus Craig Award news? “She deserves it.”
Pat Morrissey, owner of Gypsy Cab Company Restaurant is another longtime St. Augustine resident who has known MacDonald since those early days. “A lot of people don’t know this,” he says, “but Lorna used to hang wallpaper!” Knowing her character and her love for the city, he wasn’t too surprised at the news of her being the recipient of the Gus Craig Award, either. “Lorna is a caring, dedicated, hardworking person and one of the most goodhearted people I have ever known. We’ve worked together on a lot of projects and events and she’s the one we all count on to get it done.” When MacDonald was looking for ways to become more involved with her St. Augustine community, it was Morrissey who suggested she might want to work with Epic Behavioral Healthcare. She did. But, she didn’t stop there.
Aside from serving on the board of Epic, she currently also serves, or has worked with The Limelight Theatre, Habitat for Humanity (completing the building of three homes), The Wildflower Clinic; S.A.I.R.A. (St. Augustine Independent Restaurant Association), Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Chamber of Commerce, Home Again St. Johns, St. Jude’s Hospital, and Dining with Dignity. If all that doesn’t give you at least a little pause, consider this: she and Cantanbene completely renovated the north campus of Epic Behavioral Healthcare. Although she is quick to point out that Pack’s Plumbing helped out tremendously, it takes a little prompting to get the details of her and Cantanbene’s contributions. As is turns out, they — as in just the two of them — painted 10,000 square feet of the building, installed new floors from top to bottom, and built a waiting room. She calls her husband her “right arm and biggest supporter of all our community outreach projects. No matter what it is, he is right there.” She calls their work on this particular project “sweat equity.” The Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association called it “Volunteer of the Year.” We call it love.
What is it that drives her to work so tirelessly on behalf of others? MacDonald explains: “We live in a phenomenally beautiful city. I love living here and can’t imagine not being here. But in the end, it’s the people who make it so fantastic. We all benefit by giving back to those who are physically, emotionally and financially less fortunate. The support of my husband, home, work and community families has been huge for me and allows me the freedom to get involved…no matter who you are, you can’t do much without the support of others.”
MacDonald remembers Gus Craig: “I didn’t know him well but he impressed me as a wonderful man; a very distinguished gentleman.” True to character, she also says she feels “a little floored to be included in the company of past recipients — people like Otis Mason, Dr. Proctor and Sue Hale.” But Diane Marshall with the Salvation Army thinks MacDonald truly exemplifies the qualities of the Gus Craig honorees and says, “Our advisory council nominated Lorna for the Gus Craig Award because of her outstanding work and commitment to our community. She goes above and beyond in everything she does. And we all see, in everything she does, the love that she has for St. Augustine.”
Where we come from, they call that “Gus Craig Award-worthy.” Congratulations, Lorna! St. Augustine loves you back.