HOUSTON – I was talking to one of my closest friends by phone yesterday. He is in Arizona but recently spent time in our home state of Illinois. He told me had to help bury his uncle. His uncle was Dean Snyder.
Dean was a Marine in World War II. He served in the Pacific Theatre and was shot by a Japanese sniper just after landing on Tarawa. Dean was face-down in the water when he felt a hand jerk him out of that water. It was a Navy Corpsman. Any Marine in any era will salute those sailors who helped save so many Marines in every war. The Corpsman's name was Eddie Heimberger. Turned out he was an actor who had appeared on the Broadway stage in the late 1930's. His stage name was Eddie Albert. He had many movie credits, but most remember him as the guy on Green Acres. Eddie saved Dean's life and they became lifelong buddies.
Dean made trips to Hollywood after the war and Eddie was his guide. I saw Dean at the local American Legion Post about six or seven years ago. My mother always shopped at his store. Dean ran a tight ship selling greeting cards and gifts. Dean tipped his cap as I told the barkeep Dean's money wouldn't work as long as his nephew and I were in the house. He told us he just got his driver license renewed. Dean was 93 and they told him he couldn't drive after dark. He said he was taking the alley to avoid the cops.
Dean's nephew, also a Marine vet, said his uncle had two wishes. One came true when the Cubs won the World Series. His other wish was to live to be 100. He fell two months short. We like to think he got 77 extra years when that actor dragged the Marine off the beach. Semper Fi.