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Thursday, May 17, 2012
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Ernest Salazar JR.

Ernest Salazar Jr., 87, passed away unexpectedly on Monday, April 30, 2012. He had always been healthy and in exceptional condition and lived a full life. He was born in Key West, Fla., on Sept. 19, 1924, the eldest of two sons, to the late Ernesto "Baby" Salazar and Eva "Cuca" Acosta, who were also Conchs. He grew up in his hometown enjoying life in simpler times where neighborhoods were like extended families who shared what little they had and watched over each other's children. He loved fishing from shore or bridges, developed a passion for planes, and learned model building at an early age.

He entered the Army Air Force at 19 during World War ll and was sent to the Airplane and Engine Mechanic technical school at Seymour Johnson Field, N.C. From there he went to the propeller specialist school at Caldwell, N.J., where he excelled in this field. His military tours took him to India, Burma, and Okinawa. He marveled at the Taj Mahal and carried a picture of himself by it in his wallet for the rest of his life. He returned to the United States and was honorably discharged in January 1946.

Ernest then returned to his Key West family, eventually joining owner John Scribner's Key West Electrical Repair Service as an electric motor repairman. As the shrimping industry grew, he began working in the maintenance and repair department on shrimp boat electrical systems and was soon in great demand.

In 1948, he married Edna Eatherly and they soon had two daughters, to the delight of grandparents Ernesto and Eva. They left Key West in 1959 to pursue job opportunities in coastal Louisiana and Texas in his field of electrical work in the shrimping industry. They then moved to Downey, Calif., in 1964, where he spent 25 years working for a large electric motor repair facility. During that time, he and Edna parted ways and his daughters grew up and married. Upon his retirement in 1989, he headed back to his island home to join his now extended Key West family.

He lived at the Senior Plaza, where he returned to model building and collecting. He made many new friends there, as he was a kind and compassionate man with a great sense of humor. He was well liked, often volunteering his electrical skills to neighboring tenants. He and his brother Lenny shared a passion for planes and went to many air shows together. He also enjoyed big band music, going to the movies, and attending performances at the TWFAC theater.

Ernie was a member of the local Old Coots group who met for lunch every week for many years. He was a member of the Interplanetary Society and an active, contributing member of the Air Force Association. He began accumulating more models than he could build and, through the AFA, he sent several boxes to an Army group stationed in Iraq. His stockpile of models has been donated to the military. He was also a member of the First Congregational Church for many years, where he served as an usher along with his brother.

His favorite local group was the Long Time Locals Breakfast Club, where he joined his brother nearly every morning. He enjoyed the camaraderie and often brought in his own "show and tell" inventions. Their last breakfast together was on Sunday, April 29, followed by some shopping and a leisurely phone call that evening with lots of laughter and Ernie's big band music playing in the background.

He will be greatly missed by his family and many dear friends and will live on in the hearts of those left behind. Left to honor and remember him are his younger brother, Leonard (Kathleen) Salazar Sr. of Key West; two daughters, Rosemary (David) Holbrook of Falling Waters, W.Va., Theresa Salazar (Jeff Cook) of Bentonville, Va.; two granddaughters, Christina (John) Lewis and Angelina Mitchell; one grandson, Matthew Merrick; nine great-grandchildren; cousin Lorraine (Cucho) Sanchez of Key West; numerous nieces and nephews and their extended families. He will be sorely missed by his dear, longtime friends Charlotte Wrana of Seal Beach, Calif., and Art (Doreen) Omand of Las Vegas, Nev., with whom he had frequent communication.

Ernest was cremated in accordance with his wishes and all arrangements entrusted to Castillo & Thurston's Key West Mortuary and Cremation Center. A private family memorial and internment will be held upon arrival of out of town family members.