Salo family has shared 68 years of marriage

Photo by Tucker Henderson
Vi and Don Salo plan to enjoy a special Valentine’s Day dinner to celebrate more than 68-years of love.

By Barbie Porter

Editor, Frazee-Vergas Forum

After 68-years of marriage, Vi Salo is still waiting for her husband Don to get on a bended knee and propose.

The Salos share a unique love that dates back to their childhood. They both grew up on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. Vi was the middle child tucked between two sisters and Don was the second oldest in a household of five boys. The two became fast friends when Vi was 9 and Don was 11. 

“When I first met Don I thought of him as the bratty neighbor,” Vi said. “But, he was always cute, I have to say that.”

Don acknowledged he would tease his childhood friend as they scampered about the hills near Vi’s home, or while sliding down a hill in the winter. While living in the country provided a charmed life in some respects, Vi said family struggles were present. Her father was an alcoholic and that led to her parent’s divorce. A while after, Vi became Don’s cousin.

“My uncle, who lived across the river from Vi’s mom, lost his wife in childbirth,” Don said. “Vi’s mom moved in to be a caretaker and eventually they got married. That’s when we became cousins.”

The two look back fondly on their childhood, recalling many moments that built a strong friendship. When Vi reached junior high, however, her feelings began to shift for Don.

“I started thinking, I like him more than a cousin. We walked home from school and would always do something together that was silly and fun.”

Vi Salo

Vi never brought up her growing feelings for Don, so the two remained friends. Plus, Don always fancied finding himself a Christian gal, and Vi had yet to declare herself a Christian.

“When Vi was a high school senior she had three boyfriends,” Don recalled. “She finally decided to leave them behind.”

He added, after Vi became a Christian, the cute, younger friend suddenly appeared before his eyes as a young woman and he was quickly smitten with her. 

“She was cute all along, but then she became very cute,” he said. “At some point I must’ve created enough nerves to ask her out.”

The two dated, often returning to the river banks they romped about as children. The familiar fishing trips and lunches along the shore were similar in many ways.

“But, he wasn’t teasing me anymore. I think our relationship evolved because it was part of the Lord’s plan.”

Vi Salo

Deciding to become joined in eternal love was more of a mutual agreement than a romantic gesture. 

“There was no getting on my hands and knees and begging,” Don said. 

“You’ll have to do that, yet, otherwise it will be something I missed out on,” Vi noted, adding it is never too late to share a romantic moment of a proposal, even after years of marriage.

The two wed 18 days after Vi’s 18th birthday in a private ceremony in November. She wore an elegant and classy dress suit with a pink hat that she found on sale for $12, and he dressed in his high school graduation suit. Shortly after beginning their life together, Don was drafted into the Army, where he served a few years. Vi was pregnant when Don was called to duty. His office savvy allowed him to get an early release, as a family member was dying of cancer. 

“It was time to go home, so instead of putting the application for early release in the mail I held onto it and got it directly to who it had to go to,” he said. “Being in personnel management I knew who that person was.”

Two hours after his application was submitted Don was ready to be discharged. Soon after he was back on the Iron Range and began working in the milk industry. While driving a milk truck for 30-plus years, Don also served as pastor of his church.

“The pastor had left and the church board met; I was chairman at the time,” he said. “When we began talking about looking for a pastor they started hollering, ‘You do it.’ I had no religious education beyond Bible Study, but I gave it a try.”

Don’s presence at the pulpit during the 23 years he served his church on the Iron Range appeared to be a calling, as Christians beyond the area took notice. In 1986 he was asked to take a full-time pastor position at the Apostolic Lutheran Church in New York Mills.

“We prayed about it and the good Lord said to go,” Don recalled. 

The family had to stretch their budget as the pay of a truck driver far surpassed what could be afforded for pastor services. However, the Salos knew finances were a small piece of the puzzle in the greater picture of life, and believed God would provide.

“We never second guessed our decision to go,” Vi said. “And, in so many ways, God took care of us.”

While Don served the community and the congregation of his church, Vi kept busy raising a family (which grew to seven children: four boys and three girls). The busy life was balanced with a consistent reassurance of love. 

“Every morning when I woke up I gave her three kisses, and every night before bed I gave her three kisses. And, I would kiss her as many times as I could in-between.”

Don Salo

While Don’s job often called him away from the home, the long work days never took a toll on their marriage. 

“Actions speak louder than words and I could always depend on him,” Vi said, noting he provided their family with a bounty of food on the table, paid bills and unshakable trust.

When asked how Vi made Don’s life full and complete, he summarized by saying, “breakfast.” Then he explained his wife woke at 3 a.m. for many years just to cook for him. Then, she would catch a short nap before waking a second time to get their kids ready for school. The dedication and love his wife showed by waking at a less-than-desirable hour, for his benefit, is something he has always cherished. Now, the two enjoy sharing a breakfast at the local bakery after the sun rises. 

While Vi waits for her romantic proposal, she informed Don they were going out for Valentine’s Day at their go-to place, The Cactus in Perham. 

“We will go out for dinner otherwise he won’t be eating that day,” Vi said with a giggle.

The playful banter has kept their marriage fun, but Vi noted the strength they find together was a blessing of their faith and trust in one another. 

“We love each other with the same love that Jesus loved us,” Don said. “That is sacrificial and giving everything he had.”