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Former teacher leaves $2.7 million for Denfeld scholarships

A former Denfeld High School teacher, who friends say never owned a new car, included a bequest in her last will and testament of $2.7 million to the Greater Denfeld Foundation, a perpetual fund used for student scholarships.

A former Denfeld High School teacher, who friends say never owned a new car, included a bequest in her last will and testament of $2.7 million to the Greater Denfeld Foundation, a perpetual fund used for student scholarships.
Marie Saltwick, a Denfeld graduate of 1925, returned to Denfeld in 1930 as an English and math teacher for a short period and then taught biology until her retirement in 1971. She passed away on Jan. 22, 2001, at the age of 93.
Saltwick's gift, from a fortune she earned investing in Polaroid during the company's early years and in other stocks, came as a complete surprise to school officials and will bolster a scholarship fund effort that began shortly after the death of Denfeld teacher Leona Thomey. Thorney left the school in 1944, joined the Red Cross and was killed in a military plane crash in 1945. The staff at Denfeld collected some money and set it aside for scholarship funding.
Denfeld Principal Bill Westholm called the gift "just a fantastic legacy for someone who loved this school."
To administer the fund, two committees, a scholarship committee chaired by Jerry Anderson and an investment committee chaired by Greg Fox have been formed. Both Anderson and Fox are Denfeld graduates.
Westholm estimated that an additional $120,000 to $150,000 in scholarships will be available to Denfeld graduates annually.
The scholarship effort lay dormant until the mid 1950s, when friends of teacher Lenore Snodgrass renamed the scholarship fund the Greater Denfeld Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of her contributions to the school. Snodgrass had taught at Denfeld from 1918 until her death in 1953. The fund grew slowly until 1972, when then Principal Dr. Wayne Samskar reorganized the fund and it was named The Greater Denfeld Foundation. The first $150 scholarship was awarded to graduating senior Ramona Claveau in 1974. She became a registered nurse, graduating from the St. Luke's School of Nursing in 1979.
To date, the Greater Denfeld Foundation has awarded over $100,000 in scholarships to deserving school graduates. Until the Saltwick gift, the fund was slightly over halfway to its $250,000 goal after nearly 50 years of promotion.
Marie Saltwick was a special teacher and beloved by thousands of her former students. She was barely 5 feet tall, feisty and known as the "uncrowned" Honor Queen at Denfeld because of her interaction with queen candidates and their courts through the years. She always stood her ground on issues, and will be remembered for her teaching skills and response to student needs.
Jean Endrizzi, a close friend and fellow teacher of Southwick, called her Denfeld's "uncrowned honor queen" who has now moved up to "patron saint." Endrizzi said, "She had dreams for those kids who didn't necessarily have the highest test scores but who were scrappers and doers."
Dick Olson, a foundation member, said of the timing of the scholarship, "She could have done it earlier and brought all sorts of self-praise on herself. ... Here she gave everything she had to kids she never even met."
Saltwick's first teaching job was on the Iron Range. She was living in housing called a teacherage. To her it was substandard, and she raised such a fuss on behalf of her fellow teachers, that conditions were quickly remedied and she was soon named the school principal. But she returned to Denfeld in a couple of years.
Marie was a private person and was always a lifeline and caretaker for immediate family and friends. Between teaching and taking care of relatives and friends, she had little time to pursue personal interests.
Her aging mother lived with Marie for about 15 years before her death. And then there was her sister Dorothy, who was confined most of the time to a bed at Marie's home on East Superior Street. Marie designed her home to accommodate easy accessibility for her sister, including special lifting equipment in her bedroom.
Denfeld teacher Ethelyn Gruetzmacher died, and Marie took it upon herself to take care of her mother who lived close by. Marie made daily visits to her home and later in a nursing facility. Another Denfeld teacher Marge Riddle Shade died, and again Marie came to the aid of her mother with visitations, financial support and continuing love and care. Marie had another sister, Alberta, who in her declining years also lived with Marie. She had a deep devotion to family and friends throughout most of her adult life. In fact, she retired from teaching early to spend full time with Mom and her sister Dorothy.
Marie's faculty family included former principals G. Dell Daedo, Bob VanKleek and Samskar, assistant principals Bob Skouge, Roald Nokleberg and teachers Jean Endrizzi, Earl Peterson, John Sloan, Marge Riddle Shade and Ethelyn Gruetzmacher.
It was Marie Saltwick's endearing love for Denfeld that reflected her financial gift to promote educational excellence and opportunity for future generations of deserving students.

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