GILBERT — LeRoy and Jean Salo and their ever-growing family celebrated an early 70th anniversary at a party last fall at the Hutter Hall. They even had a shivaree — a noisy mock serenade performed by a group of people to celebrate a marriage — down the main street of Gilbert, just as their friends in the western Minnesota town of New York Mills had done for them in 1950.
The family had looked forward to celebrating the true anniversary on February 11, 2020, but LeRoy Salo would die at 89 just a month before. The celebration went on at his funeral in January at United in Christ Lutheran Church outside Eveleth, a church he helped build.
And at a lunch with Jean Salo and some of the family at the Dairy Queen, a favorite with LeRoy. “I think he was aware... I think he knew it was our anniversary. He had a stroke and dementia,” Jean said through tears. “He’s probably here.”
The Salos, married at ages 19 and 17, had seven children -- Wayne (wife Diane), Duane (wife Lilly), Richard and Myron (wife Alice), Iva (husband Robert) Lopp, Deborah Ahlstrand and Connie (husband Gary) Elg. An eighth child Timothy died earlier. The folder given out at the funeral lists 32 grandchildren including spouses, 43 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, and more on the way, a family member said. The stream of relatives that entered the church was proof positive.
“He would have been surprised at the funeral like I was,” Jean Salo said at the Dairy Queen, referring to the packed church. “I cry when I go to church... I used to be active in the church.” Daughter Connie Elg said of the church, “The home he built here is the home that sent him to God.”
The couple had welcomed babies, eight in 10 years — 1950, ‘51, ‘52, ‘53, ‘54, ‘56, ‘58 and ‘60. LeRoy worked at Lake Mine, then Erie. He started a trucking business. Jean worked at Jarva’s Cafe and DiLeon’s and Bridgeman’s. Then the family had a cafe in the old Gillespie building in Gilbert. And LeRoy kept working to the age when many people retire.
Jean Salo said she and LeRoy really didn’t need a party for their 70th. “Then we’ll have a parade,” she said referring to the shivaree as they’d had when they got married. “Our friends held a shivaree, that was common in those days,” Jean had written a while back. “Kettle covers, milk pails, anything that made noise until we came out. They took me the bride away and told LeRoy if he wanted me he would have to buy drinks for all to get me back... as you notice here I am!”
A poster at the funeral gave these statistics — “70 years of marriage, 840 months of hugs, 3,650 weeks of laughter, 25,550 days of patience, 613,200 hours of love and a whole lifetime of precious memories.”
And Jean Salo had typewritten these notes about their courtship and marriage several years ago: “Jean was working at a cafe in New York Mills. Another boy was to take her home.... She went straight to LeRoy’s car and the other boy watched them drive off.” They had one date after another, and soon LeRoy bought Jean a ring, and as it has been said, the rest is history.