Friday, May 17, 2024


‘Jocko’ Saltus Remembered at Mansion Clam House

By James Lomuscio

They came in droves to the Mansion Clam House in Westport’s Saugatuck section today to remember and pay tribute to local restaurateur Donald “Jocko” Saltus III, 53, who died in Stonington last week after a brief Image
Friends and family of Jocko Saltus gathered at the Mansion Clam House in Westport’s Saugatuck area to remember him. Saltus owned the restaurant from 1987 to 2005. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Soltus, who in 1987 had bought and put his signature on the Mansion, a Westport mainstay since the 1950s, was remembered as gregarious, friendly and someone with a great sense of humor by friends, family and other Westport restaurateurs.

He sold the Mansion in 2005 to open Tavern on Main, which he later sold before moving to Stonington.

“His biggest love was the Mansion,” said Matt Saltus, his brother.

Today’s event was held from 1 to 4 p.m. and drew more than 50 by 2 p.m.

“I worked for Jocko for 20 years,” said Soozi Folsom, co-owner of the Mansion who hosted the gathering, one that spilled into the rear parking lot replete with a white tent. “He made this what it is. If it weren’t for Jocko, this wouldn’t be here.

“Jocko had a personality like no other,” she added. “He could yell at you, but you would still love him.”

Westporter Duke Saltus, Saltus’ younger brother who arrived with his sons Jack, 10, and Jed, 8, was surprised by the outpouring.

“I guess everybody thought a lot about him,” he said. “This was really a nice thing to do.”

Dina Rodgers, who owns Dina’s restaurant in Wilton, described herself as a colleague and longtime friend.

“I had the pleasure of a very long friendship,” she said. “

“He was my Yoda,” Rodgers added, comparing Saltus to the fictional Jedi master in Star Wars. “He will surely be missed.”

Rodgers also credited Saltus with the foresight to invest in South Norwalk where he opened Jasper’s Oyster Bar in 1984. She also lauded Folsom and her partner Rigo Lino for opening up their restaurant for a memorial service as “most gracious.”

A 1977 Staples High School graduate, Saltus began his career washing dishes at the former Arrow Restaurant in Saugatuck and later as a busboy at Mario’s Place at the Westport train Image
Members of of the family of Jocko Saltus at today’s remembrance included (l-r) bothers Matt (Texas), Brett (Fairfield) and Duke (Westport) who surround their mother, Barbara who resides in Stonington. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

He went on to become a bartender and manager at the former Connolly’s restaurant on Post Road West and then a bartender at Dunville’s.

There he worked alongside owner Kevin Brawley with whom Saltus in 1994 would open Tavern on Main at the site of the former Chez Pierre restaurant. They sold it in 2006.

Saltus was predeceased by his father, Donald, and nephew Jake Saltus. He is survived by his mother Barbara of Stonington, his sister Bobbi and brother Matt of Austin, Texas, brothers Duke of Westport, and Brett of Fairfield.

He is also survived by nine nieces and nephews; Maggie, Tim, Zach, Tucker, Mac, Nick, Benett, Jack and Jed. He also is survived by his girlfriend, Joyce Turner of Stonington.

Saltus recently moved to Stonington where he worked at the Water St. Cafe. When not working, he loved to spend his leisure time doing what he loved most, fishing, boating, and kayaking with his girlfriend Joyce.

Barbara Saltus, his mother, arrived in a limousine from Stonington, where she was greeted by friends and others in the restaurant businesses.

“I would like people to know how much this means to me, and how much it would have meant to Jocko,” she said.

She also noted how Saltus got his nickname.

“When he was learning to walk, he had a very shaky walk, and there was a man in Fairfield named Jocko who had the same walk, and I said he looked just like Jocko,” she said. “It stuck.”

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