Cover photo for April Evalyn Salmela Erlei's Obituary
April Evalyn Salmela Erlei Profile Photo
1939 April 2023

April Evalyn Salmela Erlei

April 29, 1939 — October 16, 2023


Well, here it is. We knew this time would come. Goodbye for now, momma. Born April 29, 1939, and passed away October 16, 2023, at the age of 84. She was born to Violet Evalyn Bloyd Salmela and Valfred Edmand Salmela in Ukiah, California. She was raised on the family ranch in Navarro, California. She was like her mother and loved animals and was known as a regular DR Dolittle. There was never an animal she did not take in if she got the chance. She loved nature and collected insects and she loved being in 4H.

She had an older brother, Monty, whom she loved very much. She wanted only to be with him and the boys. Once, they were fishing in a small boat in the ocean and April stood up and rocked the boat to see a crab and fell out. Unable to swim, Monty took her quickly to shore. After Monty graduated and was starting his life, he had a girl he had planned to marry and was preparing to start college. At his physical exam, they discovered he had advanced leukemia and April lost him soon after. He was forever in her heart.

Later April went to college and planned to be a grade schoolteacher. She lived away in Chico, California. She drove her favorite car, a 60’s model, Ford Ranchero. Just before finishing a 4-year degree, she was introduced to the love of her life by his Aunt Sally (April's friend). She married Larry “Tom” Thomas Erlei on March 5, 1966, in the chapel where we sit here in Boonville, California today.

Tom grew up with 3 brothers so Tom and April wished and prayed to have a girl. They had 3 daughters: Jody, Molly, and Sally. The girls all felt lucky to have great parents. With April the kids started bringing home animals. They had farm animals, tree frogs, a ferret, a magpie, and several dogs through the years. , The ferret would bite Tom at night and somehow it ran away one night. Tom also had a few favorite cows and had to bury a few horses for the girls. They had a love for God and their family.

April loved to be involved in Campfire Girls. She was always good at baking beautiful mini cakes for each of her daughters, and their classmates, as well as holidays and parties. Her wedding cakes were amazing and you were very lucky if you were one of her loved ones who received one. She was an excellent seamstress and would sew clothes for her girls, and wedding dresses, and she
always made great Halloween costumes for the girls and their children. As a hobby, she made beautiful porcelain dolls. She was very good with crochet, and needlepoint and made many beautiful baby blankets.  

She had very strong hands and made quick work of canning fruit, shelling walnuts, and cracking her own Dungeness crab to our amazement. April’s grandkids were her life and was always worried that each of them had what they needed.  And no matter how close or far away, she showed up to the special events in each of their lives.

Preceded in death by her brother, her mother, and her Dad. It was especially a devastating time for her after losing Tom. She seemed to not be doing well at all until she got her first great-grandkids. She spent hours sharing their pictures and we were concerned when she took on sitting Madeline Michelle Montoya (Maddy). After Maddie, she set the walker aside for a few years and focused on helping Jasmine with her during the day. This gave her a new life and Maddy turned out to be her best prescription. On nights we could not find a smile, Maddy could. We knew it was going to be rough bringing a smile to her face.  If a waffle, strawberries, and ice cream didn’t work, a video or call from great-grandkids would light her up when we thought nothing else could.

April is survived by her 3 daughters, 8 grandchildren, and 6 great-grandchildren. Knowing what we know of life after death, she will be missed here but is reuniting with those that she has missed. And they have missed her far longer than we have at this time. Let’s not spend too much time in the morning and let's celebrate her life knowing she is with Tom, Monty, her parents, and all those she lost as she experienced this life.

We are all better because of her life, the women she brought into this life, and the children she cared for. Love you Mom, Grandma, Aunt, and friend. Rest in peace, we love you!

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