Devotion To A Stricken Husband

By Emily Snapp
County Muscular Dystrophy Chairman

For the first time in the county's history, residents are being asked to support the work of the National Muscular Dystrophy association. The disease which is similar or closely associated with multiple sclerosis attacks the muscles of the body. At present there is no known cure. Many die each year in this country because of lack of scientific know-how. Between the hours of 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday, teenagers will conduct a house-to-house canvass in the Warsaw area. You are asked to give. Mrs. Willard Snapp, county chairman of the Muscular Dystrophy association writes the following article. Her husband is a victim of the crippling disease. It is a story of love and devotion, indomitable courage. The Editor

Every bride has dreams of the future and I was no exception six years ago when I stood at the alter with the man of my heart. But, my expectation of future happiness was sobered by the realization that it might not last long. I was marrying a victim of muscular dystrophy, an incurable and eventually fatal disease.

I was aware of the possibility that he might live only three or four years, or that he might have to spend many years as an invalid. Could I squeeze enough living and loving into a few years with Bill to make up for a lifetime with someone else? Without hesitation I took the chance. I didn't stop to determine whether I was being foolish or brave. All that mattered was that we loved each other and wanted to be together as long as we could.

Although he has grown much worse since I first met him, I have never known Bill when he was well. I had no shock such as comes to those whose loved ones are suddenly stricken with polio or crippled by an accident. Bill's weakness first showed itself when he was a high school senior. I played in the college band with him for several months without noticing his handicap. When a friend commented that it was too bad Hbill Snapp was crippled, I was somewhat surprised to look out the window and see him limping down the sidewalk.

Music Bond
In the next three years we were together first in band and then in orchestra. I realized that Bill was having difficulty in rising from a chair, and that he often leaned on a friend's shoulder when going up steps. But I paid little attention.

Eight weeks before I graduated we suddenly discovered it was nice to share each other's company. Bill had little money to spend and his weekends were usually filled with dance band engagements, but there was no admission charge for walks in the warm, spring evenings, and we often took a breather from our night-time studies.

An accident brought up the subject of his handicap and its effect on our futures. After orchestra rehearsal a fellow student unintentionally tripped Bill, who lost his balance and fell. I saw that several were helping him to his feet. Deciding that it would be less embarrassing to him if I weren't standing over him, I slipped away and checked in my instrument. I returned to him at his locker and chatted with him as if nothing had happened. However, I was so upset that I knocked over my glass of milk in the cafeteria line shortly afterwards.

Handicap Hazard
That night Bill mentioned the incident, and commented that he would always be faced with his handicap. He also registered the hope that it would not keep him out of the "realm of possibility" with me. I assured him that it made no difference in my feelings for him and that he was very much in the realm of possibility. It was a month later that he actually proposed, and two years before we were married, but that discussion actually sealed the pact.

In the next year two separate clinics diagnosed Bill's difficulty as muscular dystrophy. This meant that what had started as a slight impediment revealed itself as a progressively crippling and inevitable fatal disease for which no cure was yet discovered.

What reaction did this disheartening news have upon him? Bill was in his junior year in college. Even if he were physically able to finish his training, how long could he use it? Wouldn't it be easier to quit school and take life easy-to live it up? To a person with ambition and determination, the alternative of sitting at home brooding his life away held no enticement.

Bill continued on the ambitious program he had set up for himself. While able-bodied students were playing ball on fraternity lawns or sipping cokes over a bridge game at the Commons, Bill was hard at work earning his way through school. He held an undergraduate teaching fellowship, washed dishes for 60 girls at a sorority house, gave clarinet lessons to several youngsters in town, ushered at the auditorium concert series and played one or two dance band engagements each week. Although it was a hard physical strain on a person whom doctors had given a year to be a wheel chair invalid, he finished his undergraduate work.

Slow Going
We were married after Bill got his bachelor's degree and stayed on campus a year while he went on towards a master's degree and stayed on campus a year while he went on towards a master's degree. During this period he decided to go into business for himself rather than to teach in college. After he left the university we moved to a strange town (Peru) and Bill set himself up in business as a private music teacher and instrument repairman. We were young and inexperienced and the going was slow. We soon felt the full force of the realization that it took time and money to get established. Bill felt the urgency of making his mark in the world in a short time because he couldn't' county on having too many years in which to accomplish his goal.

In the five years since Bill left college, he has gone far in establishing financial security. Besides being an accomplished performer, he is a fine private music teacher. He has stepped into two school situations and proved he could produce in the class room. He is a skilled instrument repairman. We have a new home, a car, a fair-sized inventory and a sold credit rating.

Any of Bill's classmates would be proud of these accomplishments. But when you realize that the persons responsible for these achievements is so crippled he can't rise from a chair by himself, the attainment is nothing short of marvelous. No one can pity him for his condition because his spirit and accomplishments have overcome it. No one can begrudge him his success because he has so richly deserved it.

What has become of my wedding day vision of six years ago? I still hope and pray for Bill's recovery, but I have never counted on it, and thus I am not disillusioned by his lack of progress. We have always wanted a family, but we know our children would stand a great chance of becoming cripples themselves.

Importance of Courage
On the brighter side of the ledger, the inspiration of Bill's courage and spirit has helped me to grow as a person. I have learned that strength of character is much more important than physical power. I know that two stout hearts can overcome one weak back.

Each morning I awake thinking how wonderful it is that he is still there beside me. How can you recognize courage in the person sleeping beside you? And once aware of that fact how can you express it to him? I kiss the patch of forehead that peeps out from the top of the spread and give the heap in the bed a big hug. "Bill, you're wonderful!" "Of course!" He settles down further in the covers. "Turn me over and let me sleep five minutes more." I grab under two thin knees, hoist his back around and roll him over. I square his shoulders, plump up the pillow and give him another swift kiss. Then I smile to myself. I don't have to tell in words of my admiration for him. I can express it much more eloquently each time I affectionately give him the physical assistance he needs.

I am no surer of how many years we have together than I was as a bride, but I am confident that they will continue rich, happy times. And isn't life better measured not by its length but by its depth?

Emily Snapp


|Willard Snapp

Warsaw Times-Union Saturday Nov. 24, 1956
Note: Using Doug Mayer's Obituary Index for 1975-1979, I find that there is an obit for WILLARD E. SNAPP in the Warsaw Times Union August 21, 1978, page 3, col. 2.

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