‘Ideal Dysart citizen’ celebrates 90th year alongside family and friends
By Sue Tiffin
The Premier of Ontario, the Lieutenant-Governor, the Governor General, and the Prime Minister of Canada all sent declarations wishing Len Salvatori a happy 90th birthday.
But despite those accolades, it was the huge crowd made up of family, friends and fellow community members at the Bonnie View Inn on Nov. 2 and those relatives and childhood buddies who had sent best wishes from afar that most made Salvatori beam with pride throughout the celebration.
“He’s the best of the best,” said Gary Brohman as he entered the party, seeking out his friend and mentor, who was walking around the room giving and getting as many hugs as years he was celebrating.
Don Popple spoke of Salvatori’s beginnings and long career at Curry Motors. “The one thing about Lenny, is he always was a customer-comes-first advocate,” said Popple, “and I like to think that thrived in our business.”
Brohman spoke to “Sal’s” work on the Haliburton County Board of Education which led to the renaming of the Haliburton Alternate Education and Training Centre to the Leonard Salvatori Alternate Education Centre in 2017.
“What I learned from Lenny, no matter what you’re doing, there’s always a solution,” said Brohman, current school board trustee and former principal. “Get angry, fight the good fight but at the end of the day, Lenny, you taught me there’s always a solution. You also taught me that you believe, and I quote you verbatim, the most precious gift we have in society is teaching our youth. You believed it and you did it and I tried to follow your footsteps.”
Scotty LaRue spoke to the pair’s lifelong friendship, while Salvatori’s children – Andy, Lisa and Laurie – honoured their dad both as their father and for the person he is, letting the crowd know where to find him each day through his schedule that includes stops at local businesses, his love for painting and watching sports and All in the Family and his tradition of mailing out over 100 Christmas cards each year.
Letters were read from family and friends that included longtime Haliburton residents Scotty Morrison and Tom Hodgson. Mayor Andrea Roberts presented him with a plaque.
“Lenny, you are the ideal Dysart citizen, you really truly are,” she said. “You’ve had a successful career here, you’ve raised a beautiful family, and your commitments to this community with your volunteer [efforts], it’s just truly, truly, truly incredible. You’re just the ideal Dysart citizen.”
As guests spoke, Salvatori’s children and grandchildren – some coming from out west for the event – surrounded him, a few linking arms with him as they shared his happiness.
“I’m totally, totally amazed that people showed up for this,” said Salvatori, to laughter around the room. “I just did things in my lifetime, just did them because I wanted to do it. There was no special effort in anything. I enjoyed everything I did.”
Surrounded by family, friends and community members, Len Salvatori was celebrated at a party held at the Bonnie View Inn honouring his 90th birthday, which takes place this week. /SUE TIFFIN Staff
In a speech, Salvatori, an avid reader, referred to a book at home in noting the elements of a happy life.
First of all, finding wellbeing within a career.
“You have to occupy your time, and like what you’re doing every day,” he said. “That’s pretty important if you’re going to succeed.”
Salvatori worked for 45 years at Curry Motors, eventually becoming co-owner. Popple said when Salvatori was about 19, in 1948 or so, he decided to “seek employment in the big city.” He was looking to work for British-American Oil when he encountered Joe Iles in downtown Toronto, who suggested he work at Curry Motors instead. Ron Curry gave Salvatori one dollar bonus for every oil change he sold, which Popple said Salvatori very quickly turned into a $20 a week bonus, gradually working his way up the ladder until he became auto body shop manager in the early 1970s and then became a shareholder and co-owner.
“I enjoyed every day I worked there,” said Salvatori. “It was a great, great career.”
Second, Salvatori said, you have to have strong relationships with people.
“If you’re going to talk to someone, you want to be sincere when you’re talking to them,” he said. “I don’t care who it is, where they are in your life, if you talk to people you want to be part of them, you want to be sincere in what you’re saying. If you’re not, don’t say anything, because it doesn’t mean anything.”
Salvatori’s eyes filled with tears throughout the celebration as friends and family acknowledged the life he shared with Betty, his beloved wife, with whom he was married for 43 years, and who he said gave him a nudge in the right direction if he was going “off-side.”
“The greatest relationship I had of course was my wife, Betty,” he said. “That was an unbelievable relationship. It was a little too short, but we had a great, great, great relationship. That’s my whole life ... It was so strong that relationship. It’s one of those things that just happened.”
Third, Salvatori said, ideally you can find a way to be financially secure.
“If you want to live a decent life, you want to make sure that if you take a dollar, you want to know how to make that dollar work for you,” he said. “Make it so you can enjoy a life all the way through life if you can. That’s pretty difficult in today’s society. There’s all this economic stress out there, a lot of people are struggling from it.”
Fourth, he said it was essential to be physical, which Mayor Andrea Roberts praised Salvatori for being. He continues to be an avid golfer and curler, both sports he excels at.
“You have to be physical, your mind has to be working, you have to be exercising and doing things in life that give you energy,” he said. “If you don’t have any energy you can’t do anything. You have to be exercising, and doing the things that make it worthwhile.”
And fifth, said Salvatori, is to get involved in the community. His friends and family recognized him for being a Scout leader for 30 years, being involved with the Ontario Minor Hockey Association for 45 years, serving on the Haliburton County Board of Education for 35 years and volunteering on the hospital board for nine years and at the fish hatchery for more than 20 years. Salvatori was named Highlander of the Year in 1978, and Haliburton Citizen of the Year in 1993.
“I don’t think I have to tell anybody I was involved in the community, but I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said.
Salvatori especially praised the Kosy Korner as a gathering spot for his circle of friends, known as the Liars’ Club, as well as a blend of people from throughout the community, and strongly praised the Kosy Korner staff (“You can’t wish for better people,” he said) for both their service and friendship over the years.
“The whole community is important, you just have to sort it all out,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you have money or not. It’s important to say hi to people. Some people are in a bad way. Everybody needs somebody else.”
Laughter and tears and memories were shared, as well as a reading of Rudyard Kipling’s If. As Salvatori finished his speech, he looked at the crowd gathered and thanking everyone for being part of his life, said: “You people are the ones that are important. I just like to be part of it.”