Waukegan grad honored for saving World War II vet
By Dan Moran email@example.com | @NewsSunDanMoran October 22, 2013 12:08PM
World War II veteran Victor Sneller and his Marshall Parkway neighbor Susan Chavez share a moment outside the Waukegan City Council on Monday, Oct. 21, after she was honored for coming to his assistance earlier this year after he fell and broke his hip.| Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 24, 2013 6:26AM
A lifetime ago, Victor Sneller survived his World War II service in the European Theatre, racing with Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army as it swept from northern France to the Rhineland.
But earlier this year, his family said, the 95-year-old would not have survived a fall outside his Marshall Parkway home if it had not been for his neighbor, 2013 Waukegan High School graduate Susan Chavez.
“He was going to go out for dinner, and as he walked out of the house, he slipped and fell and broke his hip,” his son-in-law, Joe Simmet, recalled about the night in early March. “He laid there for two hours, pounding on the door so someone could hear him.”
Simmet added that Chavez “happened to look out and saw a shadow, or he would have frozen to death.”
On Monday, Oct. 21, the Waukegan City Council honored both Sneller for his World War II service and Chavez for her actions on the evening of March 3, an unseasonably cold day when the mercury dropped into the single digits after sunset.
According to a resolution presented to Chavez, she called 911 and a Waukegan Fire Department rescue squad responded to the scene, “thus preventing a possible tragedy from occurring.”
“Susan, this is why Waukegan is such a good community,” said Mayor Wayne Motley as he presented resolutions to both Chavez and Sneller. “(It’s) because of people like you who get involved, and you saved this man’s life.”
After receiving a standing ovation from the council audience and sharing a hug with Sneller, Chavez, now a student at the College of Lake County, said all of her family deserves credit for helping their neighbor of 10 years.
“We heard a really loud knocking, so we thought he was working in his garage, because he usually does that — but he does that in the summer,” said Chavez, who was accompanied on Monday by her mother, Theresa, and her sister, Jessica.
“It was really cold, and the lights were off, and it was dark. That’s when we knew — the whole family — that something was wrong,” she said. “That’s when I saw his cane and that he was trying to get attention. That’s when I called 911.”
Corporation counsel Steve Martin was among those on the council praising both Chavez and Sneller for their different chapters of service to their community.
“Susan, that’s a terrific thing that you’ve done for this gentleman. If all people would take after you, we’d have a much better world to live in,” Martin said. “Mr. Sneller, I had the opportunity to stand on Normandy Beach about three weeks ago, and I understand, by looking and walking through that cemetery, what it meant to go on the beaches and be with Patton and be in those tanks on D-Day and thereafter.
“We don’t get the chance to thank our World War II veterans enough,” Martin added. “I want to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and the city of Waukegan (to) thank you for your service. Thank you for what you did. And every American should have the opportunity to stand on Normandy Beach and understand the price of freedom.”
The resolution honoring Sneller noted that he served not only in Normandy but also in the Ardennes. Among his military awards were a Good Conduct Medal, an American Theatre Service Medal and an Army Service Medal with a Silver Star.
Second Ward Ald. Thomas Koncan — who told the council that he’s known the Sneller family since Sneller’s late wife, Mae, was a crossing guard during Koncan’s kindergarten days at Lyon School — told Chavez that “you became a hero when you saved a hero.”
“We recognized a World War II hero today, and deservedly so. His generation has been called ‘The Greatest Generation’ for years, and the reasons are obvious,” Koncan said. “But today’s generation, we sometimes hear, is called ‘The Me Generation’ — they only worry about themselves. Obviously, Susan Chavez is absolutely the opposite of that.”
Kocan added praise for Chavez’s parents, saying “with kids like this, we’re going to be OK.”