By Darren Lum
Sitting in the shade of a golf cart’s canopy, surrounded by smiling friends, Lenny Salvatori radiated a warmth that those who know him in Haliburton will recognize.
At 90 years old, he is the oldest of this group that comes twice a week for a pick-up game of golf at the Pinestone Resort.
Salvatori, who isn’t one to boast about his achievements without being asked, regularly finishes with a golf score less than his age – by the end of this day, he scored a 75.
He said this wasn’t without some help permitted by the group.
“I concentrate pretty good and I think that’s what it is. You know, you want to try as hard [as you can] and they let me play off the front tees,” he said. “It makes a difference. It’s a shorter drive and they have long drives these guys.”
Although he credited the advantage to this shorter distance to each hole, he said the strength of his game is the consistency of his drives that land on the fairway.
Familiarity with the people he golfs with also helps, he said.
Some of them he met on the golf course while others he knew through his work at Curry Motors where he started at 19, working his way up the ladder and eventually becoming a shareholder and co-owner after 45 years. Others know him for his service to the community that his been his only home. There was his 30 years as a Scout leader, his 45 years involved with the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, his nine years on the hospital board and his 20 years with the fish hatchery. These efforts were recognized with a Highland of the Year honour in 1978 and a Haliburton Citizen of the Year award in 1993.
Salvatori even has a building named after him, as the Haliburton Alternate Education and Training Centre was renamed to the Leonard Salvatori Alternate Education Centre a few years ago.
It’s the fellowship of the golf group that keeps him coming out for the round of 18s each week. They’re all friends to him. Some of them he’s known virtually all his life.
“If I need some advice or if I have a problem I’d phone one of these guys and think nothing of it. Here’s my insurance agent all my life,” he said, pointing at Art Dawson. “His dad was a great friend of mine. You develop friendships.”
Looking at Salvatori, it’s hard to believe he is about to turn 91 in November and has golfed for more than 70 years.
When asked about his youthfulness, he laughed, saying: “I have a pretty good attitude. I have a temper too. Don’t know what it is, but … I show emotion. It’s either right or wrong. Some people don’t see that.”
After thinking more about his fountain of youth, he talks about his other interests, which include his athletic pursuits of the past and present, whether it was his nearly 25 years playing softball or his continued participation in curling. He is also a voracious reader and enjoys painting.
“That’s me. I’m pretty active. If I’m not painting a picture, I’m reading a book. I do a tremendous amount of reading,” he said.
Salvatori said the life he has led is also owed to his late wife, Betty.
They married and from a foundation of love they raised a family in the Highlands and contributed to the fabric of the community.
Hearing him talk about his late-wife who taught children at Victoria Street School and later helped supply teach, as well as serving her community like her husband, it was plain he was always willing to do anything for her. He pointed out he was ready and willing to move to Burlington to be with her before she wanted to come to Haliburton. As a non-observing Catholic, he ended up going to the Baptist Church to be with her on Sunday mornings.
He said she was always intent on doing the right thing and being fair to people.
The couple had three children, Andy, Lisa and Laurie. Salvatori has six grandchildren now.
Betty’s been gone many years, he said. But it’s obvious in the way he speaks about her that she remains in his heart.
“She was a great person and that’s part of your whole life and it makes a difference,” he said.