By Angela Higginbotham
Born in 1926 on Weaver’s Run Creek in Bullitt County, Ky., Jim Snellen has and continues to live a beautiful life of bravery and love. Snellen grew up working on the family farm and enjoyed helping his family.
“Our major farm product was corn. Our farm produced some of the longest ears of corn of all the farms in that area,” Snellen said.
At 17 years old, Snellen enlisted in the Navy in 1944 after convincing his parents to sign his papers. Snellen was anxious to see some action and be on his own. Enlisting in the middle of World War II, Snellen was stationed aboard the ship USS Cofer in the South Pacific and he served for 26 months.
On July 4, 1947, Snellen met Dorothy on a blind date. She was engaged to another sailor at the time, but eventually warmed to the charm of Snellen. Thinking he wasn’t well suited for Dorothy and in an effort to get away, Snellen decided to quit his job in the hardware store and re-enlist in the United States Air Force. He requested foreign service duty and the Air Force immediately put him to work. The problem was that he was stationed in Fort Knox, Ky., which was actually closer to Dorothy than he was before in Louisville. Snellen made the decision to leave the Air Force and start a new life. He was granted a discharge and married Dorothy in 1949. The two have one daughter, three grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
After leaving the service, Snellen worked for a variety of manufacturing companies, mostly in the heating and air conditioning field. Later, he moved into marketing for General Motors and American Standard. Snellen has worked in every state in the continental U. S. and Hawaii, except two.
In 1998, Snellen retired to Fruit Cove, within 15 miles of where his former ship, the USS Cofer, had been decommissioned.
“Every time I cross the bridge over the St. Johns River, I can picture myself being aboard the Cofer,” Snellen said.
Snellen enjoys speaking with people around the community, including at several high schools in the area — and he hopes to continue sharing his thoughts and experiences with others.
- Coming from Dallas,Tex., what did you like most about the Fruit Cove area that made you want to stay during your retirement?
When we moved here it was very laid back and a lot less busy than it is now. We have always enjoyed the area.
- What activities do you enjoy doing to keep yourself active?
Well, up until about a year ago, I golfed. I enjoy doing yard work and other things around the house. For the past 16 years, I’ve worked part-time at Pinch A Penny. They tell me they want me to work until I’m 100. I get bored if I’m not doing something.
- Tell me about your book and what it means to you to have it written out in that format?
My book is called “South Pacific at Seventeen.” When I started the book I was about 80 years old and my family and friends never gave up on me. They pushed me to completion. I can’t thank them all enough for believing that it could be done. It’s a lot of information and photos from my time in the military and I was trying to remember events from so long ago. In order to tell what life was like before and during World War II, I found myself including many memories of my childhood in the book. It means a lot to me to have it and I even still get a small royalty check a few times a year from book sales.
- What do you consider as your greatest accomplishment?
Being a husband and father. I have a special wife and a wonderful family. I convinced my wife to marry me on her 20th birthday and tried to convince her that I was the real gift.
- You were awarded two bronze stars for your service. How does that make you feel?
I never considered myself a hero and I never will. The things I did were the same things being done by countless others.
Photo by Angela Higginbotham