Dan and Cheryl knew of each other back then, but were just acquaintances. Not too long after graduating, Dan got married , and he and his wife Linda raised two children, Anna and Micah.
Cheryl also married, in 1976, to Marine veteran Ron Small, and the couple settled in Cherokee. Cheryl had begun working at the MHI in 1973, and continues there to this day. Ron worked for the Cherokee County Road Department. The Smalls had two daughters, Veronica (aka Ronnie) and Audrey. The Smalls' daughters finished high school, and Ronnie joined the Marines, following in her dad's footsteps (bootsteps?), when Ron contracted cancer, and on May 1, 2002, he passed away.
Dan Salter's wife of 40 years, Linda, also died of cancer, on January 30, 2005. After an appropriate time of mourning, of course, the summer of 2006 found both Cheryl and Dan trying to get back in the swing of dating, and, by their own accounts, not having very much luck finding someone who shared their interests, values, and background.
In the summer of 2006, Dan approached two different ministers for some counseling regarding dating, and both suggested he call Cheryl Small, who, they knew, was also a widow, and practiced the same religion as he.
The nervous Salter called Cheryl's number on two different occasions, but hung up on both occasions, without leaving a message or speaking with anyone. The ever-resourceful Cheryl, however, was not deterred, thanks to caller id. She noticed that one phone number was listed twice, but didn't recognize the number. She called it, not having any idea who she'd find on the other end. When Dan Salter answered, he was a little surprised. He knew Cheryl as "Sherry," and wasn't quite sure why she was calling. Dan says that he did recognize Cheryl's voice from forty years ago, but...
Anyway, when Dan gave his name, Cheryl knew who it was. She and Ron had actually had some contact with Dan and Linda over the years, through their church work. Dan told Cheryl he had two questions for her. Knowing Dan works for Warner Monument in Spencer, she figured he wanted to sell her a monument. She was surprised when the questions were instead, "Are you dating anyone now?" and "Do you like to dance?"
To cut to the chase, Dan and Cheryl began dating on July 18, 2006, and immediately hit it off. They mutually decided that they had both "discovered that special person" for the second time in their lives. They soon decided that they wanted to get married, and initially figured the wedding should take place next spring sometime. In trying to set a date, though, they kept running into special dates like the dates of their first marriages, the dates of their spouses' deaths, the wedding date for one of Dan's grandsons etc. Cheryl and Dan say they are amazed at how well they seem to know each other, read each other's body language, etc.
One day Cheryl suggested to Dan that maybe they should get married at Christmas time. Dan said he thought that was a wonderful idea,. They both knew all too well that "life is short," and if you want to do something, do it. So, on December 29, 2006, the couple were united in marriage in Cherokee. Their four children made the engagement announcement and three were able to attend the wedding and reception. Dan's daughter Anna, who lives in Oregon, was unable to attend, but they called her and set a cell phone on he altar so she could hear the ceremony. Unfortunately, that didn't work very well, but the honeymoon couple were able to visit Anna in Oregon on their honeymoon trip.
One of the challenges the couple anticipated was getting acceptance from their families. However, since they explained to their children and grandchildren that Cheryl and Dan would not be "their new mom/dad," and wouldn't be trying to replace the departed parents, everyone seems pretty comfortable with each other.
The biggest challenge now, they say, is "making room for each other's 'stuff' " in their home in Cherokee. For example, Cheryl loves to read, and has a marvelous built-in bookshelf that covers one wall of the living room, (full of books), so room will need to be found for Dan's books, too. "Stuff" does indeed seem to accumulate over 35-40 years, but the couple say this challenge is a "small one," and I'm sure they will find a workable solution.