The pretty little songbirds of the Oquirrh Mountains no longer have their leading voice, their smiling Stella Rose leaving this earth to sing on high. Stella gave her last intonation on October 15, 2023 at the home of her daughter Paula before an audience of children and grandchildren at her side, Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable being just the potion to awaken her for even a bit.
Stella was born on October 14, 1927 in Bingham Canyon, Utah to her Ellis Island pioneer Cretan father Emanuel “Mike” Nepolis (Nempavlakis) and her handcart pioneer mother Vera Rose Caldwell Nepolis. That daring combination ensured a lifetime of hearty laughter, sly winks, insider jokes, confusion as to how to pronounce certain foods like galaktoboureko (custard pie), an affinity for cross-continent music and singers, plus learning early on that two disparate cultures really can get along--especially when homemade wine is added in. To that end, Stella Rose had no peers--she got along with everyone.
Her early years were lived in Frogtown, in lower Bingham Canyon. She loved all things Bingham and every Binghamite that ever was. In 1939 her family moved even farther down canyon to Lead Mine. She graduated from Bingham High School in 1946, the first group she would proudly proclaim, to have worn cap and gown. Post-graduation she worked at the House of Copper and Gateway Café in Lead Mine for dear family friend Mike Leventis, then moved into Salt Lake City to work at Montgomery Ward and Auerbach’s.
On August 13, 1952 she began her course as the world’s greatest mother when she married Pete George Saltas in Las Vegas, Nevada. They had four of the luckiest children to ever grace God’s earth, John, Terry, Steve and Paula. As well, she became stepmother to four additional sons, Gary, Sam, Dick and Jim. Stella grew up wandering her beloved Oquirrh Mountains and she never missed the chance to be fishing, hiking or camping in the outdoors with her family. Over the years they graduated from blanket and pine bough beds in Butterfield Canyon to tent camping in her beloved campgrounds on the North Fork of the Duchesne River to cross country drives in her motor home, always with eggs, chorizo and potatoes and hot coffee at the ready.
Among her favorite trips were her three visits to Greece, meeting first cousins for the first time and visiting the Gavalohori village home in Chania, Crete where her father was born.
From her first hot dog and cupcake bake sale to support the kids at Copperton Elementary starting in the 1950s, to her more recent position as head salad server at the monthly senior citizen luncheons at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral even just two months ago (and last week if she had been able), Stella Rose was always giving to others, the very definition of volunteer always. She loved every moment of every day and filled each day with another task, project or dream. She loved everyone she met no matter the stripe or circumstance. It’s fair to say, and accurate, that she was Woke her entire life and proudly so.
There was no creature, no human, that Stella Rose would not accept nor nurture, no one she could not laugh or cry with, no one she could not feel for, no one she would not give to. There is no one she would ever forget--her memory for detail a source of endless amazement.
Her legacy of non-judgmental, enduring and everlasting love touched everyone she met. She was loved back fairly, too, with one exception: The Bingo Gods. She fully enjoyed her bingo and slot machines but she never hit the big-time despite probably holding the record for Sr. Citizen Greek Orthodox bus trips to Wendover.
She regularly drove herself to bingo, blizzard or otherwise, at her favorite Catholic parishes. She very much loved her bingo buddies. Just several weeks ago, on what became her last Bingo drive home she got a speeding ticket warning. At 96?? That might have been the last straw for dear Stella Rose. Her bingo cards and paraphernalia are now idle. No more shouts of BINGO or DAMN IT followed by that fast, wide smile, unmatched eye beauty and a laugh that said, “It’s all good. Nothing is too serious. I’m having fun.”
Stella Rose was a wonderful cook--among her specialties were spanakopita, melomakarona, and her delicious lamb stews. She put ketchup on everything, as all angels do, even orzo. Stella Rose spent her life giving to everyone around her--the helpless, the homeless, her family, her friends, her church, her peers, her neighbors, her neighbors yet met. She was loved as deeply as one could ever be. She is missed as much as anyone ever could be. Her lovely, lovely singing voice finally still.
Stella Rose was preceded in death by her parents; her brothers Lloyd (Doris) and Donald (Lou), sister Helen (Hank) and half-brother Lynn Woolsey (Ruth). Her closely woven extended Saltas in-laws also precede her: Spero Saltas, Sam and Maggie Saltas Kastanis, John and Mary Saltas Mannos, Jim and Vig Saltas Malkogiannis, Paul (Sophie) Saltas, Tom (Mabel) Saltas and Alex Saltas. Death came early for three stepsons Gary, Sam and Jim and son-in-law Tony Mason.
She is survived by John (Paula) and children Pete, Eleni and Mikey; Terry (Roxanne) and children Charity, Charissa and Whitney; Steve (Diane) and children Nick and Emily; Paula Mason (Tony) and children Amanda, Andrew, Jared, Josh and Lacey; stepson Dick (Diane) and children Tami, Bryan, and Holly.
She is also survived by enough grand-, great-grand and great-great grandkids to comprise a heavenly garden of red and yellow roses stretching from wherever you are to Lead Mine, Bingham Canyon, Utah. That is where she will always be. That is where you will find her. So stop and smell the roses. She always did.
Friends and family may call at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, 5335 South Highland Drive Thursday, October 19, from 6-8 p.m. Trisagion prayer service will be at 7 p.m. Funeral services will be held Friday, October 20, 11:00 a.m., also at Prophet Elias Greek Orthodox Church, 5335 South Highland Drive. Internment at Redwood Memorial Cemetery, 6500 South Redwood Road. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Holy Trinity Cathedral Fund, 279 South 300 West, SLC, UT 84101.
We love you and will miss you, Mom. We all know we were your favorite. Thank you for the chance to live and to love. May her memory be eternal. Sagapo.