BY NEIL ZAWICKI
Karlo and Carolyn Salminen spent nearly 50 years in Milton, and the couple left an indelible mark on the community. They were both teachers, very much in love, and they invested in their town, working as volunteers, and endearing themselves to everyone.
Over the past decade at least, Karlo took it upon himself to mow the triangular patch of lawn at Cozy Corner, only because it’s state land and nobody else was going to mow it. That’s Karlo. He just wants to help.
On March 28, 2017, Carolyn died after a year-long battle with ovarian cancer, and the entire town mourned.
“I was in love with her for 50 years,” Karlo said in a 2017 interview with the Independent. “She really made my life just wonderful.”
A lilac tree stands at the town offices in Carolyn’s honor. The tree is decorated with a purple ribbon, Carolyn’s favorite color.
Now Karlo is leaving the town as well, and surely the town will be sad and somebody’s going to have to mow the lawn at Cozy Corner. But Karlo, after dealing with the grief of losing his love and his best friend, is starting a new life, one for which the seeds were planted even before he met Carolyn.
He met someone, or met her again, anyway.
Karlo is moving to Connecticut to be with Becky Rogers Morey, a woman he’s known since the first grade. In the sixth grade, Becky was his first kiss. In the eighth grade, Karlo rode his bike to the swimming hole near his family’s home on Long Island, only because he knew Becky was there, and he wanted to see her. He said he left that day “with his tail between his legs.”
Becky lost her husband in 2011. After months of text message correspondence, and after attending their high school reunion, they decided to share their life together.
Sitting with an iced tea at Erica’s Diner in Fairfax May 23, Karlo beams like the 13-year old that rode his bike to the swimming hole way back then.
“How can one man find love twice in one lifetime?” said Karlo of his new direction.
As he wades deeper into the story of how he came to be with Becky, he laughs, becomes excited, corrects himself on key events, makes sure he has his facts straight, and then continues.
“What’s great about it is that we have the same memories,” he says. “And we both believe that this wasn’t an accident.”
Karlo’s faith drives his conviction that a higher power put he and Becky in touch again.
“I just kept having this feeling after the reunion,” Karlo said. “Check on her. Check on her.”
So finally Karlo sent her a text, and she immediately replied. He described their subsequent communications again with the excitement of that 13-year-old boy.
Finally, he decided to propose. So he traveled back to East Marion, N.Y.
He proposed at the swimming hole, the same one from way back then.
“I was so excited on the ferry I can’t tell you!” he said. “Then we went for a drive and I parked near the swimming hole and we walked over. She said to me, ‘It looks like you have something to say.’”
He did. He got down on one knee and pulled out the ring, and she put her hands to her mouth.
With his new direction, Karlo is selling his home and Becky is selling hers. He’s shipping “heirloom furniture” off to his children, and plans to just enjoy life with his new bride in Connecticut.
“I told Becky I was gonna take it easy,” he said. “But that’s hard for me because I have a compulsion to volunteer and help out.”
Town Manager Don Turner said of Karlo, “he just gave his time in any way he could. He was just such a positive influence on our community.”
To be sure, Karlo and Carolyn invested completely in Milton, and the work they did here is a direct result of their happiness and their interest in giving. Now, listening to Karlo talk about Connecticut, it seems like maybe he will resist the urge to volunteer.
“I’ve finally stopped raising my hand,” he said. “But when an opportunity makes itself available, you are moved to say, maybe we can make a difference.”
“I used to write little notes to Carolyn,” Karlo said. “And I would always sign off with our slogan, ‘Go MAD! As in Make A Difference!’”
When he thinks about leaving Milton, Karlo says he’ll probably stop one last time at Cozy Corner and have a look around.
“I could write a whole book about so many great people from this place,” he said.
It also appears that Karlo’s legacy is already taking hold: He noted that the lawn by Cozy Corner had recently been mowed, and, based on the blade pattern, he’s certain it was a Milton Public Works mower that cut the grass.
“I mean, I just mowed that lawn because it looked great,” he said. “That’s all I wanted.”
Of course, there are lawns to mow in Connecticut too. And you can’t keep a good man down.