Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Ramona Salvatore: At 90 ‘a spiritual mother for many’
Story and photo by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff
(From the Sept. 30, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)
At age 90, Ramona Salvatore remains a key figure in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Spokane Diocese. (IR photo)
On Oct. 18 Ramona Salvatore, of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Suncrest, Wash., will celebrate her 90th birthday. For many years now, she has enjoyed the role of “spiritual mother” in her parish, and also among participants in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal community in the Spokane area.
Madre Kuhle, one of the diocese’s liaisons for the Renewal, said that Ramona “still has a prayer meeting in her home in Suncrest, and she still brings people to God’s heart with her love and good food. She is a spiritual mother for many.”
Born in 1920, in the northern New York town of Greenwich, her parents were Franklin and Charlotte West. Ramona’s father died at age 33, when Ramona was 11, and her mother became a registered nurse to support the family. Ramona West met her future husband, Larry Salvatore, in 1934 while attending White Hall High School in Verona, N.Y., where her family then lived.
Ramona graduated from high school in 1937, and she and Larry were married Oct. 8, 1940. They lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., where Larry worked for the Armor Meat Company as a meat cutter. Ramona had grown up Episcopalian, but she became Catholic a year before she married Larry. By 1949, the couple had three daughters.
Following three earlier moves – to Midland, N.J., Baltimore, Md., and Omaha, Neb. – in 1966 Larry and Ramona moved their family to Spokane, where Larry became general manager for Hygrade’s Meat Co. In 1969, one Sunday after Mass at their parish, circumstances led Ramona and Larry to visit a local Pentecostal church where they both declared their faith in Christ. “From then on,” Ramona said, “I was never the same. The Spirit of God came to live within me, and I’ve had visions and dreams, and marvelous things have happened.”
By 1970, the couple was living in a home on Lake Spokane. In 1972, the Salvatores and four other families built what came to be called Tum Tum Church, a building that was shared by Catholics and Protestants for many years. Now called Tum Tum Community Center, Our Lady of the Lake Parish still uses the building for Sunday Mass while fundraising goes on to build a new parish church. During the summer months, the parish gathers for Mass in a large tent on the property where the new church will be located.
In 1971, Father Dan Wetzler, until recently diocesan liaison to the Charismatic Renewal, began a regular prayer meeting that met in the Tum Tum church, and the Salvatores became regular participants. In 1974, they used virtually all of their financial resources to buy mountain property on which to build a retreat facility. By 1977, the House of the Lord retreat house was completed, and the prayer meetings were moved there from the Tum Tum church. The structure was paid for in cash on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, all collected from donations.
In 1977, Larry and Ramona moved into the House of the Lord to live, having sold their lake cabin to help pay for the retreat facility. In 1980, Larry was accepted into the diocesan deacon formation program, but two years later he passed away on Oct. 18, Ramona’s birthday. Ramona describes this as the most difficult experience she ever had. “But the Lord told me it was all right,” she said; “it was a day I’d never forget; it was Larry’s Easter Sunday. It was a great disappointment and also a blessing. I never knew what the word ‘grace’ meant before this, but I felt the grace of God.”
Something remarkable happened on the first anniversary of Larry’s death. “I was at the House of the Lord,” Ramona said, “and the first frost had happened, so there were all these dead tomato plants and dead flowers. But on my birthday I opened the drapes, and I looked out, and there were 20 Easter Lilies growing there. They never came back again. God has been really kind, and I don’t know why.”
After Larry’s death, Ramona continued living at the House of the Lord for four or five years. The facility attracted numerous youth and other groups, both Catholic and Protestant, from throughout the region, and it continues to be utilized as an ecumenical retreat facility today.
In later years, Ramona returned to her roots in the East to care for seriously ill relatives, but she returned to Suncrest in 1990 with her elderly mother-in-law, for whom she was caregiver. When Larry died, Ramona was left with practically no financial resources, but remarkable circumstances – Ramona does not hesitate to attribute divine action – made it possible for her to purchase a house in Suncrest, where she makes her home today.
(Two birthday celebrations are scheduled: Saturday, Oct. 10, 3:30 p.m., Assumption Parish Hall, 3624 W. Indian Trail Rd., Spokane [diocesan and Charismatic emphasis]; and Saturday, Oct. 16, 4 p.m., Tum Tum Community Center, Hwy 291, Mile Marker 18 [family/friends/community emphasis; includes potluck dinner followed by program in the church with music and storytelling]. All are invited to both events. RSVP to Madre, (509) 276-8137 or Lorelei, (509) 276-2219.)