Ralph Henry Saltsman, U.S. Air Force colonel ret., and father of Durango residents Stephen Bonham Saltsman and Anne Cornelia Finney, died July 22 at age 95 at a nursing home in Littleton.
Mr. Saltsman was born Dec. 4, 1916, in Jersey City, N.J., to Ralph Henry Saltsman Sr. and Katherine Geddes Saltsman. He graduated from the Air Corps Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, the War College and the University of Southern California, where he earned a degree in aeronautics.
Known as “Salty,” he won the Purple Heart during World War II for injuries sustained when his B-17 bomber was shot down over France and he became of a prisoner of the Nazis for 22 months. While a prisoner at Stalag Luft III, he helped organize what would become known as the “Great Escape,” which was dramatized in a movie starring Steve McQueen.
While on leave, he met Cornelia Janeway, and after a monthlong courtship, they were married in August 1945.
Col. Saltsman also fought in the Korean War as commander of the 18th Bomber Group.
His last assignment in the Air Force was serving in the Pentagon as secretary to the chief of staff, Gen. Curtis LeMay.
For his service, he also was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross with two Oak Clusters, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal with Oak Cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Purple Heart.
Upon retiring from the Air Force, Mr. Saltsman moved his family to Columbine Country Club in Littleton, where he worked for Martin Marietta in the Titan program and later at the United Airlines Training Center in Denver.
He bought the 1,250-acre Sky High Ranch near Montrose, where his family embraced the cowboy way of life.
Mr. Saltsman was preceded in death by his wife, Cornelia Clare Janeway Saltsman, who died in January.
He is survived by four children, Stephen Bonham Saltsman and Anne Cornelia Finney, both of Durango, Barbara Carol Srader of Los Lunas, N.M., and Chris Lee Saltsman of Littleton; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
A committal service was held Friday, July 27, 2012, at Fort Logan National cemetery, preceding a celebration-of-life service.
Donations may be sent to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a local dog shelter or the Order of Daedalians Mile High Flight 18, P.O. Box 472976, Aurora, CO 80047.