Family, fishing and the accordion were the three great loves of Roy Sahlstrom, who died Thursday, November 12, 2020 at the age of 96. He loved life and was a great son, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather.  His family always came first.

Roy was born in Chicago on Sept. 20, 1924 to Carl and Gerda Sahlstrom.  He received a mechanical engineering degree, graduating from IIT in 1945, where he was elected to the Tau Beta Pi Honor Society. During WWII, unable to join the service due to poor eyesight, Roy did his part by working at the request of Colonel Nieman of Wright Patterson Air Force Base, full time on the glider bomb program at Tonopah, Nevada.

In 1948 Roy married his beloved wife, Mary Jane, or Mary, as he often called her.  He enjoyed a long career as a manufacturer’s representative specializing in equipment for power and process applications, eventually owning his own company, BellTech Utility.  In 1951 they moved to the house they built in Elmhurst where they raised their three daughters. His faith in God was important to him and he was active in his church and many other community organizations.

Roy had a great love for the outdoors, especially fishing and boating. In 1972 he and Mary Jane built a home in Door County, WI where he spent countless hours on his boats fishing the Great Lakes with his family and friends.

His love for music was obvious. It was during college that he first organized a small band, playing his accordion around Chicago often with Mary Jane by his side. Every Christmas Eve he would sit down at the organ or play his accordion while family sang songs and danced to Nu Ar Det Julien, a traditional Swedish holiday song.  He played for many Scandinavian celebrations and nursing homes throughout his life until his fingers no longer worked and the accordion became too heavy.  But not to be deterred, Roy ultimately decided upon the harmonica which he played along with the many dedicated musicians who entertained at Lexington, or outside for the birds in the park across the street.

Roy and Mary Jane moved to Lexington Square senior residence in 2001 where they were fortunate to have many friends. They split their time between Door County and Elmhurst until they sold their Door County home in 2013.

Roy remained an active member of the American Society of Engineers throughout his life and was elected a Life Fellow.  He was an avid ham radio operator.  He was passionate about his education and he and Mary Jane supported IIT where he has a room dedicated to him.

Roy is survived by his wife of 72 years, Mary Jane, who partnered with him through life, sharing his love of music and family, enjoying his dry sense of humor, putting up with his never-ending search for new “toys” to tinker with and loving and caring for him during his last years.  He is also survived by his three daughters, Carol Sahlstrom, Jean Provan (Norm), Nancy Zierk (Bob), six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren, all of whom loved Grandpa Sahlty.

Roy leaves us with his philosophy of life: “Be level headed, open minded, like your friends, and don’t look at things from only your point of view: maybe it is wrong.” 

As he wrote in an essay for the 50th anniversary of his graduation from IIT, “Looking back is a kaleidoscope of beautiful memories.”  He will be missed by all but we know he is now at peace and in God’s hands. There has to be an accordion in heaven.  Goodbye for now, until we meet again.

A Memorial Service will be held in the future. Arrangements provided by Elmhurst Community Funeral Home – The Ahlgrim Chapel. Info: 630-834-3515 or visit

Memorial contributions may be made to IIT, Office of Advancement, 10 W. 35th St., Ste. 1700, Chicago, IL 60616.


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