Donald Gene Salyards, age 89 years, died peacefully on Saturday, December 5, 2020 at Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana following a brief illness. His family is forever grateful for the outstanding care and kindness provided to him by the Heritage Point staff and the dedicated nurses of Heartland Hospice. We also want to express the greatest appreciation for the loving companionship of his caregivers: Wendy, Morris, and Annette from Always Best Care.
Don was born on February 6, 1931 in Haxtun, Colorado to Clyde and Maude (Holmes) Salyards. He grew up during the Depression in several small farming towns in Colorado including Eaton and Littleton. He was the valedictorian of the Eaton High School class of 1948. He earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Colorado in 1952, graduating with highest honors. He took his first job at Phillips Petroleum Co. in Texas, where he worked as a design engineer in the Rocket Fuels division.
Don joined General Electric as an engineer in 1956, where he proudly worked for nearly 35 years. He began his career working on an experimental nuclear-propelled aircraft in Schenectady, New York, San Jose, California, and eventually Cincinnati, Ohio before transferring to the GE Aircraft Engines division in 1970, where he worked until his retirement as a senior engineer in 1991. His passion was doing hands-on work in the laboratory, and he spent most of his career stress testing jet engine components. Don was also a local chairman of the Society for Experimental Mechanics and a member of the Pi Tau Sigma mechanical engineering fraternity.
Don served in the US Army from 1954-1956 at the Rossford Ordinance Depot in Toledo, Ohio. He made many lifelong friends during his service, and they continued to meet for reunions over the years in various U.S. cities.
While he was stationed in Toledo, he met the love of his live, Rose Marie (Hetzelberger). They were married on April 7, 1956 at St. Mary’s Church in Tiffin, Ohio. They made their home in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they celebrated 41 wonderful years together before her passing on August 13, 1997. They loved having potlucks with their neighborhood friends, going to concerts, and travelling. They took trips all over the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, and Mexico – always choosing their flights based on the reliability of the plane’s engines. They especially enjoyed their regular visits to Colorado, Germany, and her family’s farm in Tiffin. However, their greatest joy was raising their daughter, Jill.
Don was a parishioner at All Saints Church in Cincinnati for 50 years, and was a current parishioner of St. Joseph Catholic Church in South Bend, Indiana. He loved singing in church and had a beautiful tenor voice.
Following his retirement, Don remained active in GE historical groups and community service programs, serving as a historian and volunteer photographer for the Elfun Society, and coordinating the annual POPSEE reunion picnic. He also served as the president of the Metallic Club, a retired men’s lunch-and-lecture group, and enjoyed delivering magazines to the VA hospital and doing trail maintenance for the Cincinnati Parks.
His hobbies included photography, travel, golf, genealogy research, playing cards, “sprucing things up” around the yard, and tinkering in his well-equipped workshop. He was an original recycler long before it gained popularity – he was always repurposing things, crushing aluminum cans, and saving raw materials for a future project. He enjoyed walking 3-12 miles every day, waving at everyone he met along the way and often stopping for a visit with his neighbors. He had a special love for the beauty of nature, particularly hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Most of all, Don loved being a grandad to his two grandchildren. He spent countless hours diving for stray footballs, taking them for imaginary stagecoach rides, hanging from the monkey bars at the playground, sneaking in ice cream before bedtime, and cheering them on at school events.
Surviving family includes his daughter, Jill (& Jacob) Mark of Mishawaka, Indiana, his grandchildren, Sophie Mark of Chicago and Sam Mark of Indiana, his beloved sister, LaVon Berger of Texas, nephews Paul Neal and Glenn (& Gaye) Neal of Colorado and Alan (& Julie) Berger of Texas, and several grandnieces, grandnephews, and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Bernadelle “Bernie” Neal, brothers-in-law Beal Neal and Hugh Berger, and his close friends Thelma Pennington and Kay Fette.
The family of Donald Salyards will have a private funeral liturgy, followed by Committal Rites at St. Joseph Catholic Church Cemetery in Tiffin, Ohio. A celebration of his life in South Bend, Indiana and a memorial mass and reception at All Saints Church in Cincinnati, Ohio will be held when public health conditions improve. Contributions in memory of Don may be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105 or the Cincinnati Parks Foundation, 421 Oak Street, Cincinnati, OH 45219.
Don always kept a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson on his desk. Its closing lines sum up his unfailing kindness and attention to the small and important details of life:
To know even one life has
because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.