PARADE GRAND MARSHAL
Maria Lombard "Mary" Salas
Born and raised in Newport nearly 80 years ago, Mary Salas would become best known for the restaurant that bears her name. When Mayor David S. Gordon proclaimed October 19, 1997 as "Mary Salas Day" and she was dubbed a Newport "Idol", it would just be a matter of time before Mary would be honored with the coveted title of Grand Marshall of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. Everyone knows you don't have to be Irish to have the title bestowed upon you, just someone who contributes selflessly to the community.
Mary was bon in Newport in 1922 and attended Rogers High School. She first worked for Christiansen's Paper store. When World War II broke out, and most of our local men were sent to the European and Pacific theaters, Mary did what a lot of young women did in her day; she went to work at the Torpedo Station.
After the war, Mary met her late husband Francisco Sablan Salas. They married in 1945, and Francisco would be known from then on as "Salas." Mary and Salas would live briefly in Washington D.C. and San Francisco, California before Salas's enlistment ended. They decided to settle in Mary's hometown, Newport. By then, the first two of her sons, Francisco, Jr. "Frank" and Enrique "Ricky" had arrived.
In 1952, Mary and Salas opened the Tropical Bar at 345 Thames Street. A decade later they would fulfill their dream of opening a restaurant. Salas, who came to Newport from his homeland of Guam, wanted to introduce a Guamanian staple to the menu along with various seafood dishes and Italian pastas. He introduced their signature dish "oriental spaghetti." The locals quickly fell in love with it. "We're famous for our oriental spaghetti," says Mary Salas. "It's my husband's recipe."
At nearly 80 years old, Mary is still active in the business she and her late husband began. She has three grown sons, Jose joining Frank and Ricky, two of which manage the family business. Salas' is one of the longest running, family operated restaurants in Newport. Mary has dedicated and loyal employees, some which have been with her for three decades. Everyone in the extended family has worked at the restaurant in one capacity or another.
Although Mary has a gruff exterior, she possesses a kind heart. She has donated tons of spaghetti through the years for various charities and fundraisers. Mary has been on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, involved with the Restaurant Association of Newport, and the Women's Professional Club of Newport.
Mary is particularly fond of the Newport Fraternal Order of Police. She was the first female member of the F. O.P. She enjoys helping with such causes as the DARE program and the Police Parade. A few years ago Mary "graduated" from the Newport Police Department's Citizens' Police Academy. That proved to be one of the most enjoyable experiences for the septuagenarian.
Through the years Mary has met thousands of people from all over the world. They've all enjoyed her brash personality, the restaurant that bears her family name and its large potions and low prices. Mary lives by the simple credo: "You can do anything you want as long as you're willing to work for it." And at nearly 80, she's barely lost a stride.