A Gift from the Past for Our Future
By Neil Clement
“He who seeks to be rich will not be benevolent. He who wishes to be benevolent will not be rich.” Yang Hoo. Quoted by Menicius iii, I, 3. ( circa 300 B.C.)
Over 2000 years ago, a wise man quoted these words for us today. Now, as we look forward to Christmas and the birthday of the baby Jesus, almost
2000 years ago, we think of the true meaning of Christmas…giving. And most of the time what comes with giving is sacrifice.
Page 80 of my old dictionary given to me by my son, Glenn, way back in December of 1969, tells us that benevolence means disposition to do good; an
act of kindness; a generous gift.
The news about the estate settlement of Mary and Henry Saletra certainly refers to an earthly benevolence.
Almost everyone in the twin communities of Carneys Point and Penns Grove has witnessed the devotion of these two exemplary citizens: Mary Saletra,
teacher for over 50 years and the greatest booster for REHI sports; Henry Saletra, scout leader for most of his adult life.
Most of us were not surprised that the recipients of their generosity were Ranch Hope for Boys, scholarships for students and our local library.
As a former neighbor of theirs while growing up, I surely was shocked at the astronomical total of this legacy; shocked because this neat couple toiled
away at jobs that were not in a lucrative category by any stretch of the imagination. They were both average, middle class people, a foreman at
Chambers Works, E.I. DuPont, and a school teacher.
How could they bequeath well over a half million dollars? Only one thing explains it. Hard work and sacrifice. The Saletras were of a generation that only
our seniors remember. The kind of thinking that made sense. The true work ethic, “doing a good days work” and “don’t spend more than you make” kind
In the nineteen forties, I used to see Henry park his average priced car after work and then begin to sweep his gutters or whitewash the tree trunks and
telephone pole in his yard; or lay a brick driveway by hand. Years later, when he married Miss Mary, we would see her leave early in the morning for
school and then when summer came, she would head out to work at Riverview Beach Park Swimming Pool for the season.
A few years ago, on our way into a football game at REHI, I asked Mary why she still worked at part-time jobs. I mean, wasn’t it time she take time for
herself just to relax? Her reply was, “I don’t do this as a job. I just like to help out.” And help out she did even after her passing. She has ensured some
children who she has never met, will be educated. A gift for the future.
So, given these facts, how is it that our communities are to receive such valuable gifts from such humble and hardworking people? The only possible
answer must be that their wish to be benevolent toward their neighbors and future generations here, far outweighed their desire to be rich.
DECEMBER GIFT EDITION 1993