Built to last: a 61-year love story
Dale and Loretta “Tootsie” Snelling met when they were teen-agers and became high school sweethearts.
Nearly 61 years, four children, and 13 grandchildren later, they are still going strong.
“I never thought we’d probably get this far,” said Loretta, remembering the boy she met as a country girl, new to Florence.
“He always chased me I guess,” she said, laughing…” “He was little and he was an imp.”
For Dale, meeting the pretty new student was practically love at first sight.
“Her sister introduced me to her,” he said. “Her sister was really good lookin’, but her baby sister was even better.”
Dale and “Tootsie” dated for about four years and then married.
The couple moved to Marion County when Dale became superintendent of the lake in August 1964. His wage was $210 a month plus the house.
With them were 3-year-old-son Danny and eight-month-old daughter Sherry.
The two worked side-by-side managing the park and lake for the next 43 years.
Dale put in hard days painting, cutting down trees, and doing repairs to keep the campgrounds. At night, he would patrol the lake to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew that was later lifted.
“I would go to bed, at about 1 a.m., but people would still phone two or three times a night and ask if they could rent a camp site or if the fish were biting,” he said. “Dumb things like that. They weren’t thinking we were trying to sleep.”
Loretta worked as a full-time office manager helping campers with fishing licenses and county permits, and wrote a regular column for the Marion County Record.
The couple also operated a convenience store and bait shop as a side business.
Loretta’s dedication led Dale to ask commissioners to pay her a salary — even though he is not a “pushy person” by nature.
He remembers Loretta answering phone calls and helping customers “with a baby on one arm and one in a paper box.”
“We raised four kids,” he said. “Can you imagine?”
The Snellings retired to a farm in Cedar Creek in 2007 and have get-togethers for their children and many grandchildren.
Both their parents and grandparents had long marriages, so Dale figures a long road with his spouse “was kind of in our genes.”
There were a few tough times, but the two said the respect they have for each other helped them conquer.
“We’ve all had our ups and downs,” said Loretta. “But we’ve come back together and worked through the problems. We’ve had some heartaches, but with love and faith you get through it.”
She takes pride in the 60 years they have spent together — and so does Dale.
“We love each other,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”
Last modified Feb. 10, 2021