By KENDRA SITTON | Downtown News
A local business owner and organ donor was honored posthumously in the Rose Parade on Jan. 1. He was born in Italy but came to San Diego on vacation and never left. Alessandro (Alle) Speroni owned Soleluna Cafe in Cortez Hill, where he met his wife Dana.
“Alle was the sun on a cloudy day. He could turn anyone’s day around with his charm and witty humor. He knew how to listen deeply and easily made one feel like there was no one else in the room,” Dana said. “He was a man you want to know and strive to be.”
In 2013 at age 41, Speroni died suddenly from an aneurysm while surfing— a tremendous loss for his wife, family and friends. Since Speroni was a registered organ donor, through his death, he was able to save four lives with the help of Lifesharing, who carried out his final wishes by finding recipients for his heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas.
“Being a donor family, to me, was a gift. It brought light to a very dark time. Losing a loved one is tragic and life-altering; there is very little I can say to describe the moment you hear that your loved one has passed. Devastating is an understatement. Knowing, however, that the one you love can change someone else’s fate is game changing. The overwhelming sadness turned into hope — the hope that Alle’s organs would remain strong enough to save someone’s life, the hope that he could prevent another tragedy, the hope that he could create a miracle. That is everything he did and more; he saved four people’s lives,” Dana Speroni explained. “I only hope they are living life the way he would have.”
The Donate Life float’s theme was “Light in the Darkness” and highlighted Southeast Asia’s Festival of Lights — Diwali.
“The greatest fear we have after losing our loved ones is that they will be forgotten. This is a memorable event that is watched by so many people. It gives me peace to know his memory continues to live on, his organs continue to live on, and that his smile can be shared with the world,” she continued.
A portrait of the cafe owner was featured in the Rose Parade in Los Angeles. Dana and family created the floral portrait out of coffee and spices. It showcases his famous smile.
“I miss everything about him, but… I miss his smile the most. That was the smile that won me over. I met Alle at the coffee shop he owned across the street from my house. I was a regular and there was never a day I would walk in and not be greeted by that warm, affectionate smile. It was that same smile that both started and ended my day in his remaining years,” Dana said.
The float was sponsored by Lifesharing, which is federally designated to coordinate San Diego’s organ donations. In 2018, they saved a record 403 lives. Two thousand people are currently on the transplant list in San Diego.
“I hope through Lifesharing I can continue to honor Alle’s memory and encourage others to follow in his footsteps to become donors and give others the gift of life,” Dana said.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.