CEDAR CITY — It was love at first sight for Rudy Salazar when he first laid eyes on his future wife, Ruth, more than 67 years ago. It took Ruth significantly longer to even consider him boyfriend material, but Rudy never lost hope.
The two met when Ruth, then 15, was walking back to school from lunch one day with some friends. Rudy was driving with a friend who knew one of the girls and pulled over to talk to her. He was immediately smitten with the beautiful Ruth.
“That’s my girl,” he told his friend when they climbed back in the truck. That chance encounter changed his life forever, he said.
At the time, Ruth had a boyfriend and wasn’t interested in Rudy, but he persisted. He stopped by all the time and asked her out, but she always said no.
“She had no use for me,” he said. Wooing Ruth was “quite a job, but the Holy Spirit gave me a lot of hope.” Eventually, after two years, his dedication paid off.
“He just wouldn’t give up,” Ruth said. “I had no choice; Rudy would just keep coming around. I had a boyfriend and I had to go with one or the other, so I gave up the other.”
After that first date (to a movie) together, they dated exclusively for several months, but it was actually Ruth’s grandmother, Gracia Perea, who convinced her that Rudy was a nice young man and that she should commit to the relationship.
Ruth had been raised by Perea and was very close to her. “‘He’s good for you,’ she told me. I said, ‘No, no’ but I had to do what Grandma said,” she said, adding that she never regretted the decision.
“He was always very nice, very protective of me,” she said. “When it was snowing he would take me to school and drive me home. He was watching over me all the time.”
The two were married on May 27, 1954. For the first 10 years, Rudy farmed in the central Colorado community where they grew up. After that, they headed to California, where Rudy found a job with Ford Motor Company in parts supply and later, accounting.
The couple has four children, Athena, Rudy, James and Ruben. Ruth began working at JCPenney, and after 20 years in California, the two were transferred to Michigan with their respective jobs.
Then, on a trip to Denver, Rudy suggested the couple stop in Cedar City and see what the town was like. Before they left, they bought property on which they built a house, and retired to in 1993.
The Salazars’ 50th anniversary was a big bash that included all their family and neighbors, a Knights of Columbus honor guard, a mariachi band and an anniversary Mass. Recently, their 65th anniversary was celebrated quietly, with a Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church.
Their faith has carried them through both the hard times and the good times, they said. Four years ago, they lost their daughter Athena to cancer, and their son Rudy Junior last year.
They now have four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. They are especially close to their granddaughter Athena Salazar (daughter of Rudy Junior), who, they say, is more like a daughter. Athena Salazar lives in California but checks on her grandparents daily.
“I think it’s amazing,” she said of her grandparents’ 65-year marriage. “I don’t know what their secret is; it’s not something you hear often. I listen to their stories and they have been so successful with their family and with the Church. They also instilled those values in us.”
How did the two build a loving relationship that has lasted so long?
“It wasn’t hard,” Ruth said. “He is very kind, very nice. I kind of get my way. I wouldn’t trade him.”
Rudy said he doesn’t remember his life before Ruth, who, it turns out, was his only girlfriend. “We have been happy; I wouldn’t trade our life for anything,” he said. “She is outstanding.”
After 65 years of marriage, Ruth Salazar says the key to a successful relationship is unselfishness.
“You have to give and take; it’s not a one-way street,” Ruth said. “You have to be together and solve all your problems together. You have to support each other. It’s very important not to jump to conclusions and to listen. You can’t say, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’”
Rudy said it’s very important not to forget God and the Holy Spirit in your life.
“Since the beginning, I blame the Holy Spirit for my whole life, everything that is good in my life,” he said. “If you believe in God, God will take care of you.”
Ruth agrees. “God kept us together, he got us our kids. He’s always been there for me,” she said.
Throughout their lives, the Salazars have always been very active in the Church. In addition to serving in the parishes where they have lived, Rudy was a member of the diocesan pastoral council for five years.
Despite their advanced years, the Salazars are still very involved in Christ the King Parish, Parish Secretary Amy Ashdown said. They help set up the church before Mass and count the money after the services. They also attend daily Mass on a regular basis.
“They are absolutely fantastic; they don’t go anywhere without each other,” she said.