Gene and Ardena Snapp share their insights about creating a lasting love
By Dianna Troyer
When he was an eighth grader at Rupert Junior/Senior High School, Gene Snapp says he knew he would eventually marry a certain attractive freshman girl.
“I noticed her when we changed classes,” he says. “She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen.”
Excited to share his premonition, he told his mother he had seen his future wife.
“She laughed and asked me if I knew what her name was,” Gene says. “It was Ardena Schenk. She never even noticed me.”
In high school, Gene devised a successful strategy to get Ardena’s attention. He became class president and was an outstanding athlete in football, basketball, and track.
“At games, I’d look toward the stands, and sometimes she was watching me,” he says.
When Gene was a junior, Ardena accepted his invitation to prom.
“He was a gentleman and handsome,” she says. “I knew his family was kind, too.”
Their high school romance sparked a lasting love. The Rupert residents celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary September 4. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, they plan to spend a quiet day at home.
Gene, 93, and Ardena, 94, share insights about love and longevity.
“We have a strong faith in God and that gives us strength,” Ardena says. “Kindness and compassion keep you young, too.”
They agree their relationship has remained strong because they have deep respect for each other, a sense of humor, a love of God and family, and common interests. They laugh easily, recalling their courtship, careers in education, family, and advice about marriage.
“God has been good to us,” Ardena says. “We’re blessed at our age to be in our own home—my childhood home built in 1907—and to be able to take care of ourselves. Our family brings us so much joy and happiness. Family means the world to us.”
Their son Steven is an optometrist in Hailey and visits regularly. Larry, their other son, serves as an associate pastor and counselor at a church in Aurora, Colorado. He visits several times a year. Their home is decorated with framed gifts of artwork and poems from their grandchildren: Rachel, Sheridan, and Ethan.
The Snapps attribute their vitality to gratitude, being physically active outdoors, and pursuing their hobbies and passions. Gene rode horses and hunted along trails of nearby mountains.
A skilled gardener, Ardena grows flowers that bloom from spring to fall. Professional photographers use the Snapps’ yard as an outdoor studio for weddings, family photos and as a scenic background for the Minico High School cheerleaders to have their photos professionally taken.
“We’re happy that people enjoy its beauty as much as we do,” Ardena says.
Their sons help keep up their impressive yard. Steve irrigates, while Larry landscapes.
Offering advice about a lasting marriage, Gene says to not rush into a relationship. He and Ardena dated five years and waited to marry until he had graduated from college.
“Take your time when choosing a spouse and really get to know that person,” he says. “Ardena was not only pretty, she was also kind and ambitious.”
In high school, they became better acquainted while serving on student council and being members of Torch Club, an honorary society for students with high grades.
After graduating, they were supportive of each other’s careers. Gene enrolled at the Southern Idaho College of Education, a nearby teachers college where he earned a degree. Ardena worked there as a secretary to the president.
Confident of his future occupation and having a stable income, Gene bought an engagement ring and asked Ardena’s father, Gottlieb Schenk Jr., for permission to marry her. It was 1949, yet Gene still remembers the evening as if it were yesterday.
“Her father was a strict, protective German farmer who didn’t talk much,” Gene recalls. “I went to pick up Ardena for a date and sat on a couch while he listened to a nightly farm report about the price of pinto beans in Canada. I was nervous and didn’t want to interrupt. Finally, I told him, ‘I want to marry your daughter.’ He quizzed me about my job prospects and consented.”
Gene taught at an Oregon school for five years. He then served in the Army Security Agency during the Korean War, one year of which was spent in Japan. The Snapps eventually returned to their hometown of Rupert. Ardena’s father sold the farm to them, and her brother leased it.
Gene taught junior high, served as a principal for 28 years and was a superintendent for nine years. Ardena worked for the district as an office manager and secretary. They both worked in migrant language programs as well.
While working and raising a family, most couples have inevitable disagreements, Gene says.
“Talk about it and really listen to what your spouse is saying,” he says. “We rarely disagree, though.”
Ardena says couples should realize “it’s not a matter of one is always right and the other is wrong. You compromise. Each person gives more than 50%.”
For the Snapps, love extends beyond their home to their community. They are active in the Congregational Church in Paul.
For decades, Gene volunteered with local nonprofits. He was devoted to the local Kiwanis Club’s service projects for 49 years and served as the club’s governor for Utah and Idaho. He was also the local Salvation Army chairman.
“Ardena has always helped people, too, just not as part of any organization,” Gene says. “She sees those in need and does what she can.”
Their faith keeps them feeling energized, Ardena says.
“We feel blessed every day,” she says. “God is always good.”