Rolland "Rollie" Lee Salling, 87, died peacefully Wednesday, February 7, 2024 at St. Anne's in Winona, MN surrounded by loved ones. Born on August 1, 1936 to Rolland and Ione (Kleist) Salling in Eau Claire, WI. His family moved to Chippewa Falls, WI where he went to high school and played football, basketball, and baseball. His 6'3" height and athletic prowess led to achievement on court and field. After graduating from Chi High he joined the Air Force August 1954. He was an aircraft maintenance specialist and honorably discharged September 1959.
In 1961 Rollie met and married Gloria Deare. He built a life with her and her two daughters Fawn and Laura Deare in Minneapolis, MN. In 1974 he and Gloria moved to Winona, MN and 4 years later brought Fawn's 9-year-old-daughter, Tiffany, to live with them.
Over the years Rollie had many roles that usually involved constructing and cultivating. He helped build and design computers for Univac, grew roses for Siebrecht's Floral and Greenhouse, and was an integral part of Winona Technical College, known today as Minnesota State College Southeast. There he became involved with AFSCME and the DFL and was given the honor of Democrat of the year for the Southeast Minnesota Region.
He and Gloria belonged to Grace Presbyterian Church. He helped build the church, literally and figuratively. From the cross that still hangs in its sanctuary to the roofline and entrance he helped design and construct, taking it from a flat-roofed building to the church you see today.
Rollie loved all things green and blooming. The garden he and Gloria built and tended together was legendary. After Gloria's passing, he took over the job of caring for the hibiscus she'd loved and raised for 45 years. One of his dying wishes was to make sure it had a good home where it could continue to thrive.
He had a special bond with animals. As a couple, they'd had countless cats, a couple dogs and even some goldfish that lived in the pond he'd constructed in their garden. The same garden where they also hosted wild birds. That little spot was eventually sanctioned as a Certified Wildlife Habitat by National Wildlife Federation. Almost every dog and cat he met immediately trusted him, along with an occasional chipmunk.
He and Gloria enjoyed puzzles. You could be sure to find one set up on their dining table all winter long. They always welcomed people into their lives and that continued after Gloria's passing in 2019. He loved sharing a beer on the porch, an evening putting together puzzles, and countless stories with friends and family. Many friends were truly like family: Julie Haedtke; Chris and Rod Humble; Cindy and Mark Kottke; and Jeanne, Philip and Michaela Handke. There will be a void in many people's lives without Rollie in it.
Rollie was quick to share a smile, a joke, a piece of knowledge or one of his many well-known colorful phrases such as "fart in a mitten." He wasn't simple, but he was happy with the simple things of life. He shirked the limelight but earned the spotlight. He was kind and gentle but also loved to tease and cajole. He was genuine and honest. His layers of talent and insight were astounding. He could wire and plumb a house, solve computer dilemmas, and create anything from a snow sculpture to a garage to a garden.
Rollie is survived by his granddaughter Tiffany Coggins and her husband Tom Schultz, great-grandchildren August and Morgan Schultz, and great-great-niece Madeline Lewis.
Rollie was preceded in death by his beloved Gloria, stepdaughters Fawn and Laura, and parents Rolland and Ione.
A Visitation will be held Friday, February 23 from 4-7 pm at Hoff Celebration of Life Center, Goodview. The memorial service will be Saturday, February 24 at 11:00 am at Grace Presbyterian Church with an hour visitation preceding it. American Legion Leon J. Wetzel Post #9 will be conducting the Military Honors.
Memorials can be sent to Winona Area Humane Society.