As a boy in the late 1930s, Warner Lusardi kept his father company while he drove his truck from Vista through Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch to deliver hay to the Del Mar racetrack.
“I’d never seen what a real rich estate looks like,” Lusardi said. “I saw these big homes with long driveways, and I said, ‘Is this where President Roosevelt lives?’”
Today, Lusardi lives in one of those spacious homes, the reward for forging a construction and real estate empire.
“I did think that would be a goal to have an estate like that,” he said in an interview at his estate atop a hill off Via de la Valle, a couple of miles from the track.
Along with that tremendous business success, Lusardi, with support from his wife, Debra, has been a generous contributor to community causes, including the Scripps Health Foundation.
For his support of the foundation, Lusardi, along with longtime Scripps Encinitas physician and recent chief of staff Dr. Scott Eisman, is being honored with the organization’s 13th Annual Distinguished Achievement Award.
He and Eisman will be honored at a banquet scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m., April 26, at Del Mar Country Club, 6001 Clubhouse Drive, Rancho Santa Fe. Information on the event is available at 760-633-7722 or RSVPenc@scrippshealth.org.
“The Distinguished Achievement Award is given to community leaders and philanthropists who demonstrate a commitment to giving back to the community and to help others,” said John Ciullo, the foundation’s senior director of development.
Both leaders, Ciullo said, set a high standard for accomplishment, not just for themselves, but others.
“We’re thrilled to have Mr. Lusardi as a recipient, as well as Dr. Eisman,” Ciullo said.
Lusardi said he has conducted himself by the credo “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“At the end of the day, that to me is the most important thing,” he said. “It sounds corny, I suppose, but the golden rule is what I believe has made the country great. When people adopt that moral code, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
The Lusardi family name is nearly ubiquitous in San Diego County and not just from the eponymously named construction company, which is headquartered in San Marcos and licensed to operate in 26 states.
Lusardi Creek, a tributary of the San Dieguito River, and Lusardi Canyon in Pauma Valley are among the features in San Diego County that are legacies of the family’s presence.
Warner Lusardi’s ancestors left Parma, Italy, and arrived in Central California during the Gold Rush years in the 1860s before buying property and relocating in North San Diego County.
The family became so entrenched that the area around Black Mountain between what is now titled Carmel Valley and Mira Mesa was identified in the 1880s as the town of Lusardi. A U.S. post office commissioned by Pres. Benjamin Harrison was christened the Lusardi branch, Lusardi said.
His grandparents as well as his parents were members of the San Luis Rey Mission parish in Oceanside and are buried at the mission cemetery.
Lusardi grew up in Vista and played football, basketball and track at Vista High. He went on to get a civil engineering degree from UC Berkeley, then did a stint in the Navy where he was a member of the civil engineering corps.
Building was something that had been in Lusardi’s blood from an early age.
“I kind of grew up working around construction,” Lusardi said. “I drew up my first set of plans when I was 13.”
Though his father had already shut down his construction business, he un-retired in 1958 to help his 25-year-old son get his foot in the door of the industry after he got out of the Navy.
“We opened up our little office in my dad’s garage,” Lusardi said. “I ran the business and he ran the field operations.”
Over the years, the business kept growing until it became a giant. Though not as hands-on as in the past, Lusardi said he still weighs in on policy decisions and boards the company plane to inspect job sites around the country.
“We started pretty much with nothing in 1958,” Lusardi said. “We just got bigger and bigger.”