Don "Sarge" Salonen was "one heck of a fine man" and Sequim needs people like him said two of the more than 70 people who gathered at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, 169 E. Washington St., to remember the former police chief and city councilman.
Salonen, who died Nov. 21 in his Mount Vernon home at the age of 86, lived in Sequim for 61 years and served as police chief for 15 years from 1969-1984 and a city councilman from 1985-1987.
Despite those years of service, most people at Saturday's service remembered Salonen as the friendly school bus driver during the 1960s.
He began working for the Sequim School District as a custodian, crossing guard and bus driver in 1960, driving both the regular school routes and the players' bus to games.
"One thing I'll always remember about Don was that smile and the twinkle in his eye," said Jim Bekkevar, Sequim Masonic Lodge past master (2003).
Salonen was his bus driver through the fifth grade and kept a lot of children out of trouble by taking them aside and talking with them, he said.
Bekkevar said Salonen once said to him, "The first time I met you, you were hardly big enough to climb up the stairs to the bus."
Dale Butler, chaplain of VFW Post 4760, said Salonen always was ready to lend a hand when something needed to be done.
He often helped at the VFW Hall during final honors for veterans, Butler said.
Dick Foster said that as police chief, Salonen could just show up at a tavern where the patrons were getting out of hand and say, "Fellas, it's time to go home."
Another person remembered Salonen painting city hall next to the police station when he asked where he could find the police chief. "I am the police chief," Salonen replied.
He also was remembered for helping the Ladies Auxiliary with their bingo games "by giving good hugs" and for holding the flag at veterans' memorial services "because younger guys couldn't do it."
Salonen served as a reserve police officer for 10 years before becoming a full-time officer in 1969. He was appointed police chief on May 15, 1969, following the retirement of Police Chief Karl Klint and served until May 31, 1984.
Born in northern Minnesota, a son of a Finnish immigrant, Salonen grew up in Kellogg, Idaho, where his father worked in the mines. He joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1940 and, after six weeks training in Port Townsend, was stationed in
After the country's entry into World War II, Salonen underwent amphibious training on Oahu, then fought with Carlson's Raiders in the Pacific.
After being injured, he was transferred stateside to preferred duty on an air-sea rescue patrol boat stationed at Friday Harbor.
In 1945, he moved to Seattle where he met his future wife, Ruth, who is credited with helping him through his years
in law enforcement.
The following year they moved to Sequim where Salonen began logging. He worked as a lumber carrier for the Carlsborg Lumber Company from 1950 until the mill shut down in 1960.
Salonen also owned and operated Sequim's ambulance service before selling it to the Quilcene Fire Department and joining the Sequim Fire Department in 1956.
In a 1984 interview with the Jimmy Come Lately Gazette, Salonen said he began working around children, something he always enjoyed, when he went to work for the school district in 1960.
It was a couple of youngsters with whom he had stern words on the bus one day who nicknamed him "Sarge," claiming he sounded just like an Army sergeant.
Salonen later received the Golden Acorn Award from the PTA for his work with children.
Saturday's memorial service featured military honors, including a 21-gun salute courtesy of the Marine Corps League and Sequim High School juniors Lindsey Moore and Turi Anderson playing the "The Naval Hymn" and "Taps" on their trumpets. The military honors were followed by final Masonic honors.
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