OREM As 6-year-old Mickey Salisbury continued to recover in Hong Kong from the mysterious illness that killed his father last week, his mother and other family members and friends held a memorial service Tuesday in Orem for James Earl Salisbury.
Jiahui Salisbury speaks with Mickey, who is under quarantine, by telephone every day, but she can't seem to bring herself to tell him that his father died of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) on April 9.
"He sounds very cheerful," she said of her son, in an interview with KSL-TV reporter Sammy Linebaugh. "He does not sound sick at all."
The boy has asked repeatedly for his father's phone number. James and Mickey Salisbury were living together in Shenzhen, China, where James had taken a temporary job teaching English at a university. He was considering moving Jiahui and the couple's 5-year-old triplets Melinda, Melissa and Melody to his wife's native country when he fell ill.
Salisbury, who was 51, died while he and his son were being transferred from a hospital in the Guangdong province of China to a medical center in Hong Kong.
The former Utah Valley State College instructor was remembered Tuesday as lovably quixotic, a man with swashbuckling ideas to change the world, including one about dropping what he called a "freedom bomb" on Afghanistan and Iraq. The bomb would consist of a library of books and items like the U.S. Constitution.
He put the idea to paper and sent it to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and several U.S. senators, said his 22-year-old son McKay, a student at Brigham Young University.
No concerns about Mickey's health were expressed during the memorial service. The family is confident his recovery from an apparently mild case of SARS will be complete. He has a mild diffusion in his left lung, but other symptoms have subsided, said Michelle Salisbury, the oldest of the four children James Salisbury had with his first wife.
Michelle said hospital officials plan to release Mickey on April 23.
"He's fine," she said. "He's been taken off medication. They're just keeping him to make sure he doesn't infect anyone else."
A family friend, David Westbrook, makes daily visits to the Hong Kong hospital where Mickey has been able to play while being quarantined. Jiahui said Mickey is happy and feels special because, he told her, "People are sending me letters and toys."
A stake president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is acting as Mickey's guardian.
"I just can't say enough good things about the church," Michelle said. "In our absence, they've been the best guardian we can imagine."
James Salisbury was described as a devoted father whose children never doubted his love for them. Merlin, 20, is serving an LDS Church mission in Taiwan, and Matthew, 16, lives in Orem.
Jeffrey Whiteley recalled how close James was to him and his other cousins. He once cajoled each of the cousins attending BYU with him in the 1970s to join a production of "Much Ado About Nothing."
"He always thought if my life were a car it was going too slowly," Whiteley said. "So whenever we were together he would reach over and slam his foot on top of mine and hold down the gas pedal."
That philosophy apparently extended to everyone. For example, when he was 13 he decided to teach his 3-year-old sister to read. She had little choice, Whiteley said.
Salisbury grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho, and graduated from BYU in 1976 with a bachelor's degree. After working for several years in the family's travel business, he earned a master's degree in education and counseling at Harvard University in 1987. He taught behavioral science and ethics and values courses as an adjunct professor at UVSC from August 1998 to April 2000.
The family granted permission for Chinese officials to perform an autopsy on Salisbury. Michelle said the family is leaning toward interring his remains in China, a place he loved.
His children and his brother Grant described him as passionate about ideas, Christian values and serving others. They said he had a singular sense of humor that Michelle told him was weird, a designation he appreciated. He once teased her by insisting that one of her dates address him as "Maestro."
"Who does that?" Michelle asked with a laugh.
After the service, as two of the triplets chased each other over and around the chapel pews, Michelle said Jiahui hadn't decided if she will fly to Hong Kong to escort Mickey home or if they will ask church leaders to arrange an escort for the trip.
But Jiahui Salisbury does know the reunion with her little boy won't come soon enough.
"I can't wait," she said.
E-mail: [email protected]I>