On his final day, Lov Dale “Chief” Salsedo reminded his daughter to make sure an old milk jug was carefully locked away.
He'd been keeping close watch over that jug since 1953. That's when he spotted his future wife perched on it, waiting for the school bus in Healdsburg.
His daughter, Vicki Rainwater-Joiner, said Salsedo died on Oct. 3 at the age of 82, of a broken heart. His wife, Carol, died seven months earlier from complications OF rheumatoid arthritis.
“I knew my dad wasn't going to last,” Rainwater-Joiner said. “He couldn't be without my mother. It was a love you very rarely get to see.”
Carol Fowler was 14 when Salsedo spotted her waiting for the bus. She had a careful, church-going family that was at first shocked to meet Salsedo. He was a 21-year-old member of the Mishewal Wappo Tribe, fresh out of the army and working for a lumber company.
“He could be intimidating,” said Rainwater-Joiner. “My dad was the rebel of his time, a James Dean type.” He had a presence: a dark, sharp look and a long stare. Sometimes, he wore a headdress.
But Salsedo won over his wife's family and the couple married in 1954. They had four children and in 1959 moved to Chicago so that Salsedo could train to become an auto mechanic, his dream. They returned to Healdsburg for a spell but then moved to Southern California in 1963, again to pursue work. Eventually, Salsedo opened Chief Auto Shop, a successful operation that he ran for about 16 years.
“The shop was a block long,” Rainwater-Joiner recalled. “As a teenager, I loved it. We all had hot, fast cars.”
In 1992, Salsedo and his wife were hired to run the Alexander Valley Campground in Healdsburg, returning to the town that Salsedo considered home.
Lov Dale Salsedo was born in Woodland, Calif., but his family moved to Healdsburg soon after and Salsedo grew up there. The eldest of six brothers, he earned the name Chief in junior high. It stuck.