Published March 30, 2012
TREXLERTOWN, Pa. – A Pennsylvania man who had recently written in The New York Times about his love for his Alzheimer's-stricken wife killed her and himself in what their family called act of "deep devotion."
The bodies of Charles Snelling and his wife, Adrienne, both 81, were found Thursday in their home in Trexlertown in eastern Pennsylvania.
"Our father ended our mother's life and then took his own life as well," the family said in a statement. "This is a total shock to everyone in the family, but we know he acted out of deep devotion and profound love."
The coroner said Charles Snelling shot himself; autopsy results on his wife were pending.
Charles Snelling, prominent in local political circles, responded late last year to a call from Times columnist David Brooks for people older than 70 to evaluate accomplishments and lessons in their lives.
In an essay published online in December, Snelling looked back on the turn his prosperous and happy life had taken, mixing memories of the young woman he fell in love with at first sight with the challenge of caring for someone with dementia.
"The first year we were married, as summer was approaching, I asked Adrienne `where shall we travel this summer?' `What on earth are you talking about,' she answered. `Don't you travel in the summer,' I asked. Her response: `You are a married man now; get a job you lazy bum."'
They had five children in a life he describes as "charmed," partly because he was from a wealthy, well-connected family.
But six years ago, Alzheimer's disease arrived.
"It never occurred to me for a moment that it would not be my duty and my pleasure to take care of my sweetie," he wrote. "After all, she took care of me in every possible way she could for 55 years."
He and Adrienne Snelling "were wonderful parents and grandparents," the family said. "And the love they shared during their 61-year marriage was total and complete."
Snelling was a general aviation pilot and served for four years as president of the city council of Allentown. He also served as chairman of the authority that manages Reagan and Dulles airports in the Washington, D.C., area.