Popular pillar of the north London community

A REMARKABLE community leader and adored great-grandfather has died at the age of 95.

Donald Salinger ran the Fortis Green Conservative party for 40 years with his wife Rena and both played a huge part in the community. He lived for most of his life on Ringwood Road, in East Finchley, moving into Hammerson House on The Bishops Avenue when his wife died two years ago.

He died three weeks after being hit by a car on a crossing in Finchley Road on February 6.

Born in August 1915, he was the third child of Alfred and Hilda Salinger and was educated at Mill Hill School where he was a contemporary of Richard Dimbleby and Dennis Thatcher.

In 1936, he moved to China where he stayed for a decade. At the outbreak of war in the region, he and a friend joined the British Arm in Canton and he was given the rank of Major. Later he joined the 204 British Military Mission in China.

Returning to England after his adventures in the Far East, Mr Salinger was reintroduced to Rena who he had met years before. While Mr Salinger had been in China, Rena had been married and had three small children. Now separated, and despite taboos in 1950s society, her ready-made family posed no problem for the couple. They married in 1951 and Mr Salinger adopted Janice, Brian and Michael on the day of the wedding.

Brian Salinger remembers his adoptive father fondness and pride. He said: “It’s not usual these days but certainly was unusual then. I didn’t know any other father, he left just after my brother was born so I was one, he was the only father I knew and he was a great man.”

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A daughter – Hilary Ann – arrived the following year to complete the family and the couple remained happily married for more than 50 years until Mrs Salinger’s death two years ago.

“They were happy and together for well over 50 years,” Brian Salinger added. “Not many people reach their Golden Wedding and even fewer do it at the second attempt like my mother did!

“Living together, working together, playing together, isn’t a recipe for everyone but it worked perfectly for them.”

During their long life together, the couple were involved in a huge range of voluntary organisations and became pillars of the communities that they lived in.

“The so-called Big Society could have been created by the example set by our parents, ” said Brian Salinger.

Mr Salinger will be remembered as much for his temperament and open, inquisitive personality than he will for his role in the community.

“It’s not easy to put words into why someone was like that – it was just his nature.” Brian Salinger said. “I grew up in a house where the door was always open and everyone was always welcome.”

His love of his 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren was fully reciprocated. So eager was he to have great-grandchildren at his Golden Wedding celebration, he urged his grandchildren to get on with it – they duly obliged.

At his funeral, the greatness of the man was evident. Despite being 95 years of age, the crematorium was full of friends.

Brian Salinger said: “We had prayers in the evening and we had to use the synagogue hall because there were so many people who wanted to come along and pay their respects. We had the choir singing – it was really special.”