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In Memory of . . . Charlotte J. Saleska (1935-2012)

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Rev. Charlotte Justice Saleska died of Alzheimer’s disease on December 28, 2012. She was 77 years old.

Rev. Saleska was born in Marion, IN on August 16, 1935 to Olive (Heal) and Enos Edward Justice. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Taylor University in 1957 and a Master of Arts from Hunter College in 1964. Finally, in 1988, she earned both a Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological School. As a student at Meadville Lombard, she helped create and implement the first women’s studies course at the seminary, and led a call for the school to hire female professors to the all-male faculty.

Rev. Saleska was ordained on June 6, 1988. She was first called to serve the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities in Davenport, IA, becoming their first and only female settled minister, from 1988-2000. She then went on to serve as interim minister at the First Universalist Unitarian Church of Wausau, WI from 2000-2001, and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, FL from 2001-2002. In 2000, she was bestowed with the honor of Minister Emeritus of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Quad Cities.

Rev. Saleska brought her diverse background to her work as a minister. She was a social worker at Head Start Families in Milwaukee, WI from 1968-1975; coordinator of the Milwaukee-area high school Inter-Urban Health Careers program from 1975-1980; and, for many years, a high school English teacher. While her husband, the Rev. Charles Saleska, was serving the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville, FL (1980-1985), she served as the Fellowship’s Director of Religious Education from 1983-1985. She often recalled that, growing up as an Indiana farm girl in the 1940s and 1950s, it never occurred to her that ministry was something a woman could do. When her husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, though, her women’s group helped her see what had really been her deeper call: ministry. And, in 1985, at age 50, she entered Meadville Lombard Theological School.

Rev. Saleska’s tenure as minister, as in life, was marked by a love of literature, a commitment to religious pluralism and social justice, and the enduring power of liberal religion in local congregations. While in Davenport, IA, she co-founded the Interfaith Theological Symposiums to bring her Unitarian Universalist Congregation together with Edwards Congregational United Church of Christ and the Temple Emanuel Reform Jewish congregation, for religious dialogue and social action. An early supporter of marriage equality, she began performing gay and lesbian wedding ceremonies in the early 1990s. As part of her passion for merging justice and religion, Rev. Saleska also helped guide the church through a building expansion that created more religious education classroom and meeting space.

Rev. Saleska’s passion for women’s issues, and for reclaiming the role of women in human society, began at home as she taught and guided her sons to feel compassion and respect, and to speak out for women and women’s issues; and expanded to include her engagement in seminary and in ministry. She also loved deep discussions of any kind, especially book discussion groups and movie discussions. Because of her background in English literature and her love for Shakespeare, she could quickly recall and expound on literary references, metaphors and poems, giving them voice in her sermons and discussions. She loved to garden, and in later years, her house was full of green and growing plants of many varieties. Rev. Saleska also loved to travel, and during her years of ministry she took trips to Transylvania, Germany, France, and Italy. When she could, she also traveled to Chicago and New York to visit friends and attend the theater. One of her favorite activities before and after retirement was to drive to Spring Green, WI, to meet her sister and brother-in-law to attend Shakespeare plays by the American Players Theater.

Rev. Saleska is survived by her sisters, Carol Jones and Carmen Wilks; brothers, Warren Justice and Sam Justice; son, Scott Saleska, his wife, Kirsten Engel and their daughter, Helene; son, Kent Saleska, his wife, Heidi Saleska, and their children, Parker and Mirek.

A memorial service will take place on Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church West, 13001 West North Avenue, Brookfield, WI 53005.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation (http://www.uuwf.org/donatejoin.html) or to Planned Parenthood (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/) in honor of the Quad-Cities location Rev. Saleska helped establish.

Notes of condolence may be sent to Kent Hemmen Saleska at 210 12th Ave. N., Hopkins, MN 55343 (revkent@uucmtka.org); or to Scott Saleska at 2210 E. Hawthorne St., Tucson, AZ 85719 (srsaleska@gmail.com).

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