Genevieve E. Salisbury, a 43-year-resident of Twentynine Palms and an ardent supporter and lover of this community, died from natural causes on Tuesday morning, Sept. 10, in her daughter’s home in Corbett, Oregon. She was 90 years old.
Born July 3, 1929, in Memphis, Tennessee, Genevieve, or “Ginny,” as she was known to friends, was the eldest of two children of Frank and Genevieve “Loretto” Evans. She had a younger sister, Vivian, or “Patsy,” as she was known for most of her life. Ginny and Patsy were very close throughout their childhood and adult lives, and hardly a week would go by when one of them would fail to call the other.
The Evans moved to Tremont, Mississippi, a small town in Itawamba County, during the Great Depression. Ginny’s father, Frank, worked as a railroad engineer/conductor. Ginny described her family during those years as being cash poor, however, they always managed to have food on the table and bartered with neighbors and friends for basic items. During that time, Ginny fondly recalled on special occasions her parents giving her permission to barter two fresh eggs to a man who used to sell various staple and sundry items from his delivery truck in exchange for candy bars for her and Patsy. It was always a very special treat, getting those candy bars. Candy, especially, chocolates, was always a way to her heart throughout her entire life.
One of the more interesting tales Ginny liked to tell during those Itawamba County years involved a future rock-and-roll legend. In a nutshell, it can be recounted as follows: When she was in her mid-teens, Ginny and her aunt would often sit on their front porch in the dawn hours during the harvest season and watch the sharecroppers and their families heading into the fields. Among them was a particularly handsome man who always had his tow-headed boy with him — a boy of about 7 or 8 years old. With some sleuthing on her own, Ginny’s aunt was able to determine the sharecropper’s name (Vernon). More than 13 or 14 years later, “Vernon’s son” — that very same tow-headed boy, now sporting slicked back, raven hair, was taking the nation’s youth by storm as the one and only Elvis Presley. Ginny’s aunt informed her of all of this when Elvis was in heavy rotation (pun intended) on national radio and television. “Remember that handsome sharecropper named Vernon? Well, that’s his son. The little tow-headed boy.” Well, that was how the story usually went….
Growing up poor, Ginny valued, among many things, education. Even more than chocolates. She was determined at a very young age to make sure she studied hard and received good grades as she knew it would help lay a foundation for future success and provide a pathway for a better quality of life. Arithmetic, she always noted, was a subject that particularly challenged her. But, like everything challenging, she was always fueled by self-determination, and achieved good marks.
After graduating high school when the family moved back to Memphis, Ginny attended Methodist School of Nursing, graduating in 1950 (she noted with humor she was the only Catholic in her graduating class). She then went on to attend Saint Louis University, and earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing in 1953.
Upon graduating from Saint Louis University, Ginny joined the United States Navy and served as a registered nurse, achieving the rank of lieutenant junior grade (LTJG). A few years into her Navy career, Ginny began to entertain thoughts of becoming a teacher, and, in particular, teaching English overseas. However, before she explored the teaching vocation in earnest, fate intervened, and took her on a completely different path.
It was like any ordinary day at the Naval Medical Center hospital in San Diego in 1956 when a bomb drill was conducted and all of the on-site crew had to “duck and cover” in the hospital hallways. And, it was while kneeling before a hallway wall with her hands covering the back of her head that Ginny peeked to her right, and, staring at her (also peeking) was none other than her future husband and “Ride or Die” for life, Dr. Edward M. Salisbury. She would often recount how she knew in that instant, when their eyes met, she was going to marry Edward (“Ed,” or “A-Yed”, as she pronounced his name).
Ginny and Ed married on Aug. 17, 1957, in Japan, honeymooning there as well. They remained married for 59 incredible years, until Edward’s passing in December 2016.
Together, Ginny and Ed had six children, seven grandchildren and countless, fond memories as they walked through an extraordinary life together. Ed’s Navy career saw the family living in Oakland, Sangley Point (Cavite City, Cavite, Philippines), Quantico, Virginia, and Long Island, New York. However, it was in August 1974, when the family moved to Twentynine Palms, that Ginny and Ed felt they had finally found the one and only place they wanted to settle down “for the long haul.”
They lived in Twentynine Palms for 42 years and were both very active within the community. They contributed their time and both physical and financial support in helping to build a hospital, a community college and preserving the history of Twentynine Palms.
Ginny had a genuine love for people. Like the song, if people who need people are the luckiest people in the world, then Ginny could make slot machines pay off just by walking by. With her sweet, Southern charm, she was able to approach countless strangers throughout her life and, in many cases, make long and lasting friendships. So many times, people will engage in small talk where they ask you a question only to launch into a monologue about themselves. Not Ginny. She genuinely was interested in your life and your life story. When you walked away after having a conversation with her, you would realize there was genuine interest in how you were doing, and what, if any, hopes and dreams you might be planning for that day, week or year. She could work a room. “Ginuinely.”
Ginny’s love of education came full circle in Twentynine Palms when, while in the mid-1970s, she obtained a teaching license/certificate which allowed her to serve as a substitute teacher in the local school district. Ginny taught every grade from kindergarten through 12th grade and continued to teach well into her mid-70s. She had an appetite for learning and challenging herself all of her life and while she was working as a substitute teacher, she also managed to obtain a license in real estate and worked as a real estate agent during much of the 1980s. And, if that was not enough to keep her busy and her nose to the grindstone, also during this time, Ginny’s interest in the history and stories of the pioneers who settled and quite literally created Twentynine Palms grew out of her job writing for the local weekly newspaper, The Desert Trail. Her column “Down the Trail” did not just recount the events of the past but allowed her to find the people who lived in those times and get the story behind the story. She was able to charm all she met and learned the details of all those wonderful stories.
Ginny was preceded in death by her mother and father, her sister, Patsy, and her beloved husband, Edward, and is survived by their six children, sons Edward P. Salisbury and his wife, Joanna (Merwood) Salisbury, of New Zealand, Brian Salisbury and his wife, Dee (Welborn) Salisbury, of Fort Collins, Colorado, Philip Salisbury, of Los Angeles, James Salisbury and his wife, Kelly (Butler) Salisbury, of Rancho Mirage, and John Salisbury, of Seattle, Washington; and daughter Carol (Salisbury) Babcock and her husband, L. Ross Babcock of Corbett, Oregon. She is also survived by seven grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was held for her in Oregon. She is interred at Riverside National Cemetery, now joining her husband, Edward.