We are gathered here to mark the sojourn through the life of Wesley Dana Salmon. Wes was sent by God to live in this world, and now he has been removed by God from his station. He was sent to be a part of. the family of mankind. He was born in Wichita, Kansas, on February 17, 1963. On March 8, 1963, the Kansas Children’s Service League chose him to be adopted by the Salmon family. He died on October 13, 1983, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at Children’s Hospital.
Wesley was a son and a brother. He lived his twenty years and 238 days as a chosen son. He was the brother of Jana and Julie who survive him.
Wesley was a citizen of the globe. He attended schools in Salina, Kansas, the Religious Houses in Chicago, Rapid City, Anchorage, Hartford, Pace (Mississippi), and Macksville, Kansas. He lived one summer in Kwang Yung Il in Jeju-Do, South Korea. He attended one year of college at Kansas Wesleyan University. His summers were spent in Order summer camps and in the employ of a Macksville farmer and a mower repair shop.
In May 1982, he was diagnosed as having Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia i and was sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where he was under treatment for nine and one half months. He then entered a five month period of remission. He relapsed on July 25, 1983. After a short hospitalization and a brief time with family and friends he was invited to participate in an investigative chemotherapy protocol with a cancer research project in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He died following ten days of hospitalization.
Wesley died as he lived, taking a winning attitude toward life. His life and death was a demonstration of what it means not to take ourselves too seriously but to be serious about the outcome of what we do. He lived his life with a winning style, and now in awesome tranquility is living his death. His life is complete and will remain forever a part of the eternal mystery that creates and shapes the world.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Wesley Dana Salmon was a man like every other man, and yet he played a unique role in the life of the Order, in the life of church and in the life of the world.
Drawn to rejoice in life and wonder of createdness, Wesley expended immense amounts of energy in sports and athletics of all kinds. His great love was football, and in his last year in high school he achieved 28 touchdowns in one season, winning for himself the honor of an athletic scholarship. In addition he excelled in basketball and in track. It was a great blow to be stricken with leukemia at what appeared to be the start of an outstanding college a career, yet like other athletes before him, he decided to use his death to enable life for others.
Wesley was rooted in the Church. With his family, he decided to participate in the renewal of society through social demonstration in the Fifth City project. He was seven years old when his family joined the Order. He participated, with the other children of the west 8ide in forging the youth anödsschool structures which have been used in Human Development Projects and replication throughout the world. In 1976 he became part of the experimental Student House, and with his life forged the patterns of this experiment for all youth everywhere. An insistence on participation, on equality, on authenticity marked his contribution. Wesley also shared in the life of Religious Houses in Rapid City and Anchorage and in the work of the HDP in Pace, Mississippi.
Wesley was like any other human being in his quest to know the meaning of life and death, yet he was unique, a unique gift to history. The last two years of his life were living examples of courage, consistency, and persistence. He lived these years on behalf of all youth who are called to suffer greatly and on behalf of all people who dare to live their death.
Wesley Dana Salmon was a man like any other man, and yet in his twenty years he played a unique role in the life of his family, the Order and the world. Who was this young man? What were his roots and accomplishments? What was the purpose of his life?
Wesley was an adopted baby. When the Kansas Children’s Service League called the Salmon family, they announced that a “blue eyed, brown haired baby boy is waiting for your adoption.” When Beverly and Bill arrived in Wichita they discovered a brown haired baby boy to be sure, but who could mistake those bright brown eyes. Wesley Dana, as he was baptized, was a chosen child. This privilege is reserved only for those families that participate in the adoption process.
After the Salmon family joined the Order: Ecumenical, Wes lived in Chicago Nexus, the religious houses in Rapid City, Anchorage, Kwang Yung Il on the island of Jeju, Hartford, and the project in Pace, Mississippi. As a high school student he lived in Macksville, Kansas where his parents served the local church. After graduation he attended Kansas Wesleyan University.
The signal events that mark Wesley’s life center around his athletic ability. When he was a baby he was able to grasp and throw a ball well. As a child he played organized baseball and basketball. His favorite sport was football, where in his last year in high school he was designated an outstanding offensive player in the league. While at Hartford Wesley was on the indoor track team. At his first track. meet, which was a year and a half later, Wes realized the team didn’t have anyone running the hurdles. He told the coach, “Somebody has to run the hurdles. May I try?” Wes won the race which led him to the Kansas State Championship tournaments during his sophomore, junior and senior years as well as through one year of college track. During his time of hospitalization he considered preparing himself for a future participation in the decathlon in the Olympic Games.
In the Student House Wesley will be remembered for his many exploits. Wes made sure that the ordered life was well disrupted by the discontinuous. There are those who recall his running laps around the chapel. Others remember hiding with him above the ceiling of the Guild Hall. While the staff sought to find them in vain, they were silently laughing as they watched the search through the cracks in the ceiling.
A less-known characteristic of this young man was his love of children. All his life he enjoyed those who were younger. With them he was an inventor of games. He was also a dramatist whose talent was little known. Jeremiah Cock and Tad Mueller recalled Wesley playing frisbee and catch with them in the Great Hall at the Chicago House. During his final hospitalization a four year old on the chemotherapy ward stopped by his room to say, “Hello,” and was treated to a broad smile, a wave and sparkling eyes.
What is the promise of Wesley’s life? Perhaps the meaning of a person’s Life is never something one can claim for himself but is that which is given by others. If this be true, then Wesley can best be described as a winner. He did not like to lose. He liked to win, and he wanted those who competed against him to do their best to beat him. Remarking about his Own impending death he said, “Sometimes I wish I could just die!; but death is going to have to catch me from behind.” Death did just that.
The epitaph he wished to place upon his headstone reads: “Don’t just play. WIN!”