Written by Resident and Publisher, Blaine Elizabeth Alexander
“She’s tireless.” Jay Wakefield says, “I can’t make her go home with this virus threat, she still comes in every day.” At 81 years old, Donna Culbertson Fritz still enjoys her full time job at Wakefield, Buick, Cadillac, GMC. She recently received an award for top sales person in 2019 and has been a top Cadillac salesperson earning Crest Club status for over 19 years.
Donna says, “Most car sales people don’t last more than six months. They think it’s easy, but it’s hard work and a lot of hours. But I love it. It’s my playground!” When Wakefield bought out Murphy, Cadillac, Pontiac, GMC in 1998, Donna was the only employee out of 23 that Wakefield kept. Jay says, “For the 22 years she’s been here, Donna comes in when it snows, she sends me gifts, she sends her customers gifts, (angels hand made by a local lady) and she always reaches out to me and her teammates.”
When Donna left real estate in 1978, Mr. Murphy sent her to automotive college in Charlotte for two weeks. She was the only woman enrolled. One of the instructors took her under his wing and said to her, “Choose the job you love and you’ll never have to work another day. Treat your customer like you want to be treated. If you’re good at what you do, you’ll get repeat customers.” Donna says, “Through relationships and hard times, I’ve gotten referrals. For example, the Joe Lark family, Joe passed away in March (age 80). I met him and his wife Shirley when I sold his parents a 1979 Cadillac. They became friends and customers. Since then, I’ve sold to the entire extended family eighteen cars.”
What drives her? As an only child, her father, Red, was very influential to her. He was the top salesman in the US with Thomas and Howard before he died of cancer at the age of 45. Donna says, “Before that he worked for Montgomery Farms, a dairy business off of Montgomery Drive. The Montgomery’s lived on Greylogs Lane and we lived on Montgomery Drive. It was a dirt road back then. Mr. Montgomery sold the farm and the land when pasteurization happened and we moved to Duncan Park.”
Donna grew up loving sports because her dad loved it so. He was very involved at Wofford College. She says, “Everybody loved my dad, he was such a good person. My parents were ‘Parents Of The Year’ with Kappa Sigma Fraternity for chaperoning their parties. This was around the 1950’s and my dad went to every ball game for the local team affiliated with the Cleveland Indians. We’d travel to wherever with season tickets to all of the football, basketball and baseball games. I got to know the players growing up.”
Donna finished Pine Street and Spartanburg High School, graduating from Converse College. “Back then, at college, we sat down for dinner. They taught us to be ladies as best they could. We had to wear dresses and couldn’t wear pants, but on a sunny day, but we’d roll up our pants and wear our raincoats. We had golf at Converse and there was a 9 hole golf course at the back of the campus. Dad even tried to teach me but I didn’t adapt too well to it. His passing was overwhelming to me.”
Life has a way of picking up the pieces. Donna met her husband Max. She says, “Susan and Ron Burnett owned Arthurs and Boogie Hunt, the bartender, introduced us. I couldn’t believe it. Max was a big sports fan! He was talking about a pitcher and I asked what his ERA was. Max was pleasantly surprised that I knew what that was. We’ve been married for 37 years as of July 30th.”
The Fritz share their love for sports and have gotten to know many players over the years.
For seven years, Donna participated in the Atlanta Braves 101 Baseball Program. “It’s a clinic for women and an all day affair.” She says. “I went with a friend from Atlanta, she was our Delphi GM rep at Murphy's & Wakefield's. We became great friends sharing our love for the Braves. We would eat breakfast and then hit the field doing everything the players did, learning the game. It was a lot of fun. I won Miss Congeniality at 62 years of age!” Donna and Max got to know Andruw Jones and his family really well and Max played in his golf tournament. Andrew is a Curaçaoan former baseball outfielder and designated hitter who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball, most notably for the Atlanta Braves. They still stay in touch.
To date, Donna works tirelessly for her community. In 2013, she received the Mary Mildred Sullivan award from Wofford for being active in the community: “An Award for love for and helpfulness to others.” For ten years she’s been the President of her neighborhood association, Pierce Acres/Lake Forest. She’s been involved with the Charles Lea Center for over 14 years and is on her 4th term serving on the Foundation Board. She’s still active with the Bethlehem Center since 2005 and was Chair in 2015. She and Max are very involved with their church.
As they say in sports, “Life is short, play hard.” Donna’s dad would be so proud that she’s carried on his tradition.