- Barrie Barber Staff Writer
World War II veterans Kenneth K. Snavely and Russell Taylor were brothers in arms in uniform and today share a milestone few reach.
Snavely turned 100 years old in July, and Taylor will hit that mark Oct. 2, milestones marked Tuesday at Brookdale Miami Twp. — where the two live — by state officials and friends and family.
“I’m in real good shape and I can’t believe I’m 100 years old,” Snavely said in a telephone interview Tuesday. He attributes his longevity to his personal motto: “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” he said. “I think that suits me pretty good.”
Taylor, who said he landed on the beach at Normandy, France on D-Day as allied troops fought under heavy fire to oust Nazi occupiers, was modest about the recognition. He served with the Army’s Signal Corps under Gen. George S. Patton.
“I’m just one of the many people who’ve been in the war and did things,” he said. “I can’t understand why I’m having such a big time.”
Snavely was a soldier in the Army Air Forces in World War II in Manchester, England where he worked in a supply depot. ”Everything was alright there,” he said. “We had a lot of work to do and we did it.”
Ohio and the nation have a dwindling number of World War II veterans. More than 16 million Americans were in uniform during the most devastating war in history. In Ohio, about 24,700 veterans of the conflict are still living.
“Honestly, it’s not often that we have veterans that make it to 100 years old,” said Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veteran Services., who was due to visit both men at Brookdale on Tuesday.
“I’m an avid lover of history and as our World War II veterans continue to pass due to age, we lose another piece of our history,” the retired Army colonel said. “Many of their accounts of the war were never recorded.”
Taylor doesn’t like to remember what he saw and heard on Normandy beach.
“I landed in Normandy and the bodies floating in the water and the men (were) drowning) because they were let off the landing craft too early and, of course, the noise and the bombs and those things were a little nerve wracking,” he said. “I never talk much about it. I like to forget that. I’m an optimist. I only look at the good side of things.”
Both men are widowed, but had decades-long marriages and careers.
Taylor met his wife Odile in Paris at Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s headquarters. He transferred to Paris headquarters staff because of his skill gained working for IBM before the war. The New Jersey native and retired IBM employee and his wife were married on the Cannes Rivera in France, lived in the United States after the war and had three children. The couple was married more than 70 years.
More than two decades ago, he started a non-profit in Florida for disabled children in honor of a daughter who was born with Down’s syndrome, he said.
Snavely was a bicycle messenger at an Army base in his native Pennsylvania in the 1930s and retired decades later at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
He and his wife, Lovinia, were married more than 50 years and had two children.
Laura J. Heywood, Brookdale resident programs manager, said both men haven’t let age stop them from their pursuits.
Snavely has volunteered at the Cox Arboretum for three decades. He has dinner every Saturday at his favorite restaurant with friends, she said.
Taylor attends the opera, likes to bowl, play games and wander nature. “I still got my driver’s license but I don’t use it,” he said
He’s known for his what he says, too. “He’s a great teaser and loves to have a great argument,” Heywood said.