Larry Gale Salsbury, age 82, passed on April 14, 2023, in Brookfield, WI where he lived with his wife, Mary Buchel. Larry was born at home (on the kitchen table, according to family lore) in Pulaski, OH on November 9, 1940. He was raised in Bryan, OH on a family farm that his father purchased when Larry was six. His father, Gale Emerson Salsbury, raised a breed of hogs with an extra rib, which was a big deal for a family dependent on the sale of hogs for their family income. His mother, Geneva Cleophes (Wasnick), was a homemaker and fabulous cook. Her strawberry pies and shortcake were the stuff of legend! Larry was the third of four siblings, which included his sister Marilyn (Elling), brother Herb, and younger brother, Dave. As a child, Larry enjoyed eating popcorn and drinking cider on Saturday night while listening to country western music and radio programs such as The Lone Ranger and Sky King. He had a pony named Flicka with whom he loved to play. Some of his happiest memories were of getting into mischief with his cousins and making hay.
Larry attended Bryan High school and graduated in 1958. Larry was an excellent student, graduating at the top of his class. With the encouragement of his family, he decided to go to university, and he enrolled at Ohio University where he completed two years before transferring to Purdue University. He joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, and he supported himself through college working at the fraternity and holding down summer jobs. He graduated from Purdue University in 1962 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Shortly after graduating, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lee Fisher, and the couple bought a home just north of Milwaukee in Whitefish Bay, WI. He worked at Allis Chalmers, a manufacturer of tractors, and then Arthur Anderson, where he did consulting work. His first son, Thomas (“Tom”), was born in 1966, and his second son, James (“Jim”), was born in 1967. Mary was a first-grade teacher until Tom was born. Back then, mothers were encouraged to leave their jobs to raise their children.
In 1972, the family moved to Cedarburg, WI where they would live for the next 10 years. Larry had already left Arthur Anderson to begin his career at Briggs & Stratton, where he retired 30 years later as head of Information Technology. Larry loved taking his boys to the Briggs & Stratton corporate campus to show them the huge mainframe computer rooms where he spent much of his day. He first worked the early generation of computers with key-punch comptometers that evolved into IBM mainframes and LANs (local area networks).
Larry was an engaged father and loved being with family and friends more than anything. Larry, Mary, Tom, and Jim did much together as a family. Larry bought a Sunfish sailboat and took his family sailing at several of the small lakes in the area. He later bought a canoe, and the family would take trips with friends and with their church. The family particularly enjoyed camping and bicycling, and they combined these two passions on long weekend trips to the Sparta-Elroy Bike Trail and the Tunnel Trail Campground. Tom and Jim have very fond memories of biking all day and sitting around the campfire at night eating smores and campfire pudgy pies. In 1977, Larry and Mary purchased an acre of land on Clarks Lake in Door County, WI. They built a small cabin there, and it was also there that Larry put his rugged farm boy skills to task, building the cabin from the ground up. His sailboat, canoe, bicycles and other outdoor gear all ended up at the cabin, and the family spent many weekends and summers at the Lake.
Larry particularly enjoyed non-motorized sports. In addition to biking and sailing, he was also an excellent racquetball player, and for decades he played in a league several times per week at a local racquetball club. He taught both of his boys how to play racquetball, but neither of them was ever able to beat him even as he progressed in years into his late fifties. In addition to outdoor activities and sports, he was a superb chess player, and he loved games that involved logic and puzzles. His hobbies often involved his family. For example, as a child he had a Lionel train set, and so he bought a Lionel train set for his boys to assemble. He also bought his boys a track-car (AFX) set, and he dedicated an entire bedroom in the house just for this set. He built the kids forts, and he enjoyed playing with them in the structures that he built. Later in his life, just before and after his retirement at 60 years old, he took up new hobbies such as kite flying, scuba diving, and fishing.
Larry and Mary were very involved in the United Methodist Church in Cedarburg. With their church, they pursued many of the same outdoor activities that Larry loved, such as camping, bicycling, and canoeing. Larry was also able to use the skills he learned from the farm and from his chosen profession as an engineer to lead various work projects with the church. These projects benefited the local community as well as other communities in the state.
Larry and Mary separated in the early 1980s, which was around the same time that Tom and Jim graduated from high school and left home to begin college. This was a new beginning for Larry. He met his second wife, Mary Buchel, and they were married in 1984. The couple bought a home in Wauwatosa, WI, and Mary’s children, Rebecca and Dylan, both lived with them until they graduated from high school and started college. In 1990, Larry and Mary bought a home in Brookfield, WI where they lived for almost 30 years. They enjoyed the life of empty nesters, traveling to foreign and domestic locations, attending Milwaukee area theater on a weekly basis, and entertaining family and friends in their beautiful Brookfield home. Mary had grown up in the restaurant business, and she introduced Larry to cooking. Larry quickly excelled as a chef, under Mary’s and her family’s guidance, and he was particularly adept at Cajun cooking and grilling. His Cajun stuffing is a family mainstay with every holiday turkey. He became confident enough in his skills that, when he encountered master Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme at a Milwaukee event and stood in line to meet him, he offered Paul suggestions for one of his recipes(!).
A man of many skills, throughout his lifetime Larry planned and built numerous home improvement projects. Having grown up on a farm, he was less likely to hire someone and more likely to do it himself, to build a deck, tile a bathroom, put in a fence, install a wood floor or drywall and plaster a basement.
Larry loved sharing his passions with others, and this continued throughout his life. His grandchildren were able to enjoy many years with their grandfather. They traveled with him both domestically and abroad, they visited museums and zoos together, they bicycled with him, and of course, they cooked together with him. Larry’s last bicycle was a beautiful recumbent that he took on long bike tours in various places in the Midwest, east coast, and Pacific Northwest, and many of those trips were with his grandchildren.
Although he loved being on the water, he was never a strong swimmer. In his late seventies, with multiple health issues, he dreamed of swimming. A friend, Gayle, coached him for a year on various swim skills and strokes. These lessons enabled him to improve his swimming to the point where he could lap swim three times a week at the local YMCA.
Larry was a kind man with a big heart and a lot of integrity. In his retirement, he dedicated many volunteer hours towards building a team of tax professionals who could help those who needed assistance filing their taxes. This volunteer service earned him the Wisconsin Governor’s Senior Service Award.
He stayed involved with his family right up until the end of his life. He supported his wife, children, stepchildren and grandchildren in all their many adventures and endeavors, and he participated in their lives in as many ways as he could. For example, Larry was always at the ready with his equipment and gadgets to help his children move to new apartments and houses during their young adult years. His family and friends miss him dearly.
Larry is survived by his wife, Mary Buchel, his two sons, Tom (Lysa) and Jim (Kate), stepchildren, Rebecca and Dylan (Sarah), six grandchildren (Maya, Luke, Sarah, Elise, Aurelia, and Anton), and his sister, Marilyn. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brothers Herb and Dave.
The family thanks Congregational Home staff, Froedtert healthcare professionals, and Allay Hospice staff for their care of Larry this past year.
A celebration of Larry’s life is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, May 28, 2023, at Unitarian Church West, 13001 West North Avenue, Brookfield WI 53005. Doors open at 2:30. Service at 3:00 followed by a reception and light refreshments.
In lieu of sending flowers, please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer's Association or to Congregational Home.