Eldri Johanson Salter-Gray
(1935 — 2015)


As remembered by Hunter Bear (John Salter, Hunter Gray)
September 8, 2015

Eldri passed into the Spirit World about 3:45 pm today. It was a peaceful transition in our home, the culmination of a long and difficult illness. At her passing, several of us were present — myself, Maria, Josie, Cameron. Hospice staff had been with us a bit earlier and then returned. Our good doctor came as soon as he could.

We were fortunate that all members of our immediate family, many from far and away, were able to see and talk to Eldri in these past several days. Even if she was not fully conscious and fully attuned in the last period, there were many signs that she knew all of her family were with her.

Eldri will be cremated — Downard Funeral Home, Pocatello — connected with Heritage. At some point, we expect her ashes to be sprinkled at her family cemetery, near Bisbee North Dakota, close to the Canadian border. I have asked John and Peter to do an obituary. A memorial service will be announced later, likely for this fall.

We have been married a few months more than 54 years. There have been many successful social justice struggles, and countless crises, and she and I and our whole family have always stood firmly together through every single challenge.

And we will always be all together. Eldri has been our Rock, always has been and always will be.


As remembered by Joyce Ladner
September 8, 2015

Dear John,

I am so sorry to hear of your loss and that of the children. I can imagine how difficult it is to have your rock make her transition because Eldri was a giant oak. Please convey my sympathies to your children.

I met Eldri in the fall, 1961 at Tougaloo College. She was a soft-spoken but tough woman with the most beautiful spirt one can imagine. As quiet as she was, she went out on the picket line alone when no one else could go. That took some guts because she was taunted beyond the ordinary. White folks in Jackson couldn't understand why a white woman would picket one of their stores. She had to be one of those white folks who worked at that "commie" Tougaloo College. And they were right.

Elder or Ms. Salter as we called her, wore her beliefs and values proudly. She was also so young and pretty. When I heard she was originally from North Dakota, I couldn't understand how she made her way, with you, all the way to Mississippi. I remember spending a few days with you and Eldri during the Christmas holidays in 1963 after you moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. That was a very nice holiday. My regret is that I haven't seen Eldri since then.


As remembered by David "Dave" Dennis
September 8, 2015

Hi Hunter;

Sorry for your loss, which is a loss to all. It is also a gain in that she is now with the spirits and will be watching over us.


As remembered by Sam Friedman
September 8, 2015

I only met her during the one visit and a few phone calls, but I was deeply impressed by Eldri and have felt very close to her. You and your family were lucky to have her, and she was lucky to have you and your clan.

The Earth has been a better place for her presence. And if there is an afterlife, it has gained in value.

Eldridge leaves the air of the world charged with her honor.

You have all my sympathy and love for the hard days ahead.


As remembered by Bob Zellner
September 9, 2015

Our dear Hunter Grey John Salter,

You and Eldri were there in the beginning and showed us how to bridge the gaps and heal the breach. I just got back from the Shinnecock Pow Wow in Southampton and am now on a march with Major Adam O'Neal from Belhaven, NC to Raleigh, the birthplace of SNCC.

We are about to get our hospital back. You organized all through this country we are walking through and your spirit is still here.


As remembered by Peter Salter
September 9, 2015

She was the eye of our hurricane: While her husband was waging revolutions and her children were struggling with authority and their math homework and their checking accounts, Eldri (Johanson) Salter served as her family's anchor.

She could be co-conspirator, counselor, tutor, lender. She was a minister's daughter, born in Moose Lake, Minnesota, raised in Minneapolis and Newman Grove, Nebraska, and she drew from her deep Midwestern Lutheran roots to help keep things on an even keel, as her husband, John, liked to say.

She took care of her family for most of her life, and she died Sept. 8 at home in Pocatello, Idaho, with her family taking care of her.

Eldri Ruth Johanson was born Feb. 11, 1935, to Ella and the Rev. John Johanson. She graduated from Newman Grove High School in 1953 and then from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, with a degree in sociology.

She was working as a social worker, driving her Volvo up and down the lakefront hills of Duluth, Minnesota, when she met her husband, John R. Salter, Jr. They married in 1961 and immediately embraced a lifetime of even steeper climbs.

They spent much of the early 1960s in the Deep South, on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi and North Carolina. She was arrested. Her home was hit by bullets. But she remained steady, nourishing the Movement with warm meals and measured advice.

She and John would travel the U.S. fighting injustices and righting wrongs — organizing impoverished inner-city neighborhoods, underpaid faculty, rights-deprived prisoners, Algonquin fur-traders. They would live in all corners of the country (Seattle, Upstate New York, Arizona) and its center (Chicago, Iowa, North Dakota). Her husband was handed much of the glory — and the job offers — but Eldri was a full partner in their success, listening, supporting and strategizing. Keeping an even keel.

Along the way, she would raise and love her still-growing family: children Maria, John and Peter Salter, and Josephine (Cameron) Evans; grandchildren Thomas (Mimie), Scott, Samantha, Jack, Hunter, Bret, Sawyer, Taylor, Aidan, Finley and Liam; great-grandchildren Willow and Noah.

Some of her grandchildren grew up calling her Mama, and she waited for all of them to travel west from five states to be by her side, and to hold her and thank her, before she died.

She gave to her family so fully, in her patience, tolerance, fry bread and emergency loans her husband didn't know about. She raised money when she could, as a babysitter, astrologer, teacher of Navajo kindergarteners.

But she asked for so little in return — she seemed satisfied with her spinning wheel, Norwegian loom, knitting needles, coffee, menthol cigarettes, a glass of Jim Beam from time to time and the Sunday afternoon phone calls well miss so desperately now.

She is preceded in death by her parents and her brother, John David Johanson. She is survived by her husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and brother, Arnie Johanson.


As remembered by Rev. Ed King
September 11, 2015

Eldri Johansen Salter-Gray once sang with her friend Medgar Evers, "I've got the light of freedom... all over Jackson, I'm going to let it shine." Now Eldri is with that light and shines all over the world and all over us.

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