Susan Salsbury, wife of fugitive gambler

April 06, 1994|By David Michael Ettlin and Fred Rasmussen | David Michael Ettlin and Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writers

Susan Salsbury, a former waitress who was the wife of fugitive Baltimore gambling kingpin Julius Salsbury, died Friday of heart failure at St. Joseph Hospital. She was 69.

Mrs. Salsbury was rarely mentioned in the dozens of newspaper articles tracing her husband's rise and fall as a bookmaker and Block nightclub owner from the early 1950s until his 1970 disappearance to avoid a 15-year federal prison term.

She granted one interview for a Sun Magazine article a few months later, providing a peek at the unreported side of her husband's life -- as a loving husband and father of three daughters. She pointed out the mounted trophy fish, caught on a family trip, and the encyclopedia set and classics in the bookcase of a paneled den.

"He bought those books," she said. "Put that in your article."

Mrs. Salsbury, the former Susan C. Wellman, was born and raised on a farm in New Castle, Pa., and was about 17 when she moved to Baltimore in 1942.

She worked as a waitress at the old Dickman's Restaurant before meeting Julius Salsbury, eloping to Miami after a brief courtship.

The couple lived for many years at 2912 W. Strathmore Ave. in Northwest Baltimore -- and that apparently was where Mrs. Salsbury last saw her husband in August 1970.

He was awaiting the outcome of an appeal on a federal gambling conviction, free on bail with his travels limited to the vicinity of his home, his Horizon House apartment and trips to the zoo -- only when accompanied by his grandchildren, a judge decreed.

"He was worried the night he left," Mrs. Salsbury was quoted as saying in the article, describing him as "very sad" and suffering from a variety of physical ailments. "He never talked about legal problems. He didn't want the children to hear," she said.

"It was very hard for me the night he left. To serve 15 years in prison . . . he couldn't do it. When you see your husband going down the walk for the last time, it's heartbreaking. That was it."

Whether Julius Salsbury -- often said to have fled to Israel via Canada -- had further contact with the family could not be determined yesterday. Whether he is still alive is unknown. He would be 78 today.

A daughter, Anita Paul of Carney, said, "I will answer no questions about my father."

She said her mother, who lived in Towson, had been ill in recent years, and that she was an excellent cook and "a warm person who had a heart for down-and-outers and the homeless. She was interested in animal rights, not as an extremist, but as one who was concerned about animals, and also enjoyed gardening."

Services were planned for 11 a.m. today at the Evans Funeral Chapel, 8800 Harford Road in Parkville, with interment at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

She is also survived by two other daughters, Rochelle Salsbury of Ellicott City and Iris Salsbury-Miller of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; a 00 brother, Richard Wellman of Chicago; three sisters, Elsie Paglilong of Chicago, and Irene Fava and Minnie Walzak, both of New Castle; two grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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