For a lot of refugees travelling to Akron to make a new life, Donna Early Tuber was the first person to greet them at the airport.
They didn’t know the Cuyahoga Falls woman had received many of the community’s highest awards, worked alongside the city’s most important people and was responsible for finding executives for some of the area’s most important companies.
They just knew she took the time to learn the rudiments of their language and would take them to an apartment and make sure they had the basics to survive in a foreign country.
Her work continued for decades and didn’t end until about two years ago, when cancer struck.
Mrs. Tuber, known as Donna Early in her professional life, died Saturday at 66.
As founder of Providence Personnel Consultants in 1981, she was known as a person who could match a professional person with the right job.
“Donna was a wonderful listener and a great asker of questions,” said Sid Landskroner, a family friend. “She would listen to someone and then ask very provocative and stimulating questions.”
Her business achievements led her to become president of the Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce and to positions with the International Management Accountants. But it was her charitable work that associates emphasized as they remembered her life Monday.
“She just wanted to be helpful,” said Toby Ann Weber, former chief executive of the Red Cross of Summit and Portage Counties. “She ended up in leadership roles, but she was really comfortable in one-on-one, get-her-hands-dirty work to help people.”
With a degree in international studies from Ohio University and the ability to speak seven languages, she focused her private time on helping refugees the Red Cross or International Institute brought to the area.
That meant helping them from the moment they landed at Akron-Canton Airport, even if it involved traveling through a blizzard to get there.
“She would be there on the tarmac with other refugee families welcoming them,” Weber said. “And if she had go through the night when a plane landed ... she would be there, and she would get them settled in their apartment and she would stay in touch with them.”
Howard Tuber, her husband, said that when those families needed furniture, she helped obtain it. When children needed help learning English, she became their tutor.
Friends said Mrs. Tuber brought families into her personal life, often inviting them to parties at her home.
“She was a great hostess,” Weber said. “She loved to have a great, big Christmas Eve gathering, and she would have people from her church family, her neighborhood and then there were always refugee families. She didn’t keep them separated from the rest of her life.”
Being self-employed, Mrs. Tuber had a flexible schedule, but her husband said her days were always busy.
“She would work 18 hours a day almost every day, and her greatest love was the volunteer work and being in the trenches, handing out the mops and the brooms,” he said.
Her awards included the H. Peter Burg Community Service Award in 2009, the George H. W. Bush Points of Light Award in 2001 and the Red Cross Clara Barton Honor Award.
She is survived by her husband; four children, Melisse Moore Boyd, W. Tyson Moore (Lindsay), Leonard Tuber (Sigalit) and Kimberly Tuber; her sister, Nancy Perkins (Mike); and five grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Summit County chapter of the American Red Cross, 501 W. Market St., Akron, OH 44303.
Friends may call from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Redmon Funeral Home, 3633 Darrow Road, Stow.
Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at First United Methodist Church, 245 Portage Trail, Cuyahoga Falls.