VALENTINE'S DAY: Love of music leads to true love

James and DeVonne Snow will be celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary this July. On right is the young couple back in 1957.

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Jim and DeVonne Snow of Hot Springs will be married for 65 years

By Charity Maness

HOT SPRINGS – While James “Jim” and DeVonne Snow grew up in different states; their love of music brought them together in a symphonic harmony that would last a lifetime.

DeVonne grew up in a rural community near Exiter, Neb., learning at a very young age that music was her passion.

“Music was my first love. I was in band and choir. You name it, I played it,” said DeVonne, tasking herself with learning whatever instrument was called for or whatever song needed to be sung.

Jim grew up in Midland, S.D., also learning a love of music at a young age.

“I played a little football,” recalled Jim, “but I loved music, lots of music. I really enjoyed musicals.” It was clear to his family that Jim had an untapped talent. So at the age of 10 his mother enrolled Jim in voice lessons; a move that would forever shape the landscape of his future.

After graduation from high school, DeVonne attended the University of Nebraska majoring in music.

“I had dreams of being a professional accompanist,” said DeVonne with a bright smile, “yet I am thankful my guidance counselors convinced me to take some courses geared towards education, I guess they knew plans could and would change.”

When Jim graduated high school he enlisted in the United States Navy as an aviation machinist. Jim served from 1952-1955.

“I was all over the world,” he said, “I had two tours of Korea and multiple times to the Mediterranean.” Jim served aboard the USS Coral Sea as well as multiple other ships while serving in the U.S. Navy and received an honorable discharge after four years, leaving as a 2nd class petty officer.When Jim returned to the states he enrolled in the University of Nebraska with a major in music. And this is where the magic began.

“One day I heard the most beautiful clear tenor voice,” recalled DeVonne. “Now understand, when you are in a music building and everyone is singing and playing it’s hard to identify who was doing what, but I tried to find out who the voice belonged to. I knew he needed an accompanist and I wanted to be it.”

“The first time I saw her I loved her,” smiled Jim. “I was a voice major and I needed an accompanist so I married her.”

“He was quite the catch,” said DeVonne with a smile. “He stood around in the hallways and had a little curl in his hair.”  

The two had a whirlwind romance, meeting in January 1956 and marrying in July that same year. “That summer Jim attended summer school in Boulder and he came and got me and we got married.”

“I remember my father was not very happy,” said DeVonne. “He thought I wouldn’t finish college. But I was going to prove him wrong.”

From Boulder the couple traveled to Chadron where they attended the college there. 

“I had my first child while I was a senior,” said DeVonne. “She watched me walk down and get my diploma.” Nothing was going to stop her from obtaining the education she dreamed of, motivated by her father’s doubt that she would ever finish college. “Jim always said my best life insurance was to finish my degree.”

While DeVonne was finishing her bachelor’s degree, Jim got a job working at Fort Robinson State Park in Crawford, Neb. 

Yet Jim was in love with learning. 

“I loved music, but I found I also loved psychology,” said Jim, “but apparently I also loved biology, elementary education, criminal justice and more. I guess it was a lot of short trips through all field of education.”

DeVonne continued her educational pursuits eventually earning a Master’s Degree in music. 

Jim continued his education while working at the men’s reformatory and utilizing the GI bill. He eventually achieved a degree in criminal justice, a degree in counseling and a PhD in Psychology.

In 1970 the couple, now with two children, moved to Hot Springs; Jim built their dream home on Cascade Road.

“I remember you could count the number of homes on one hand between our house and the Cheyenne River back then,” said DeVonne.

The move to Hot Springs was a logistical move as Jim had accepted a position as the first juvenile probation officer in the 7th district and DeVonne became the school music teacher.

“I initiated the program,” said Jim, “I traveled a lot, covering six counties.” 

DeVonne saw that Jim was truly invested in the youth he worked with and knew he wanted to help more. “When he was a probation officer he decided to go to school for counseling to help the kids before they got in trouble; he wanted to put out the fire before it got going.” It was at this point he reached his goal and received a PhD in psychology spending the remainder of his career working in that field.

The couple both feels that throughout their six-decade marriage the cornerstone to their love was not only music, but also the love of simply being together, enjoying life together.

“Life has been a great adventure,” said DeVonne. “We really enjoy the same things.”

“The fun things in life we have done together,” said Jim. “I have no regrets,” he laughed, “we have lived life as it came. It’s been fun. We have had an exciting and interesting life together. I can’t choose one favorite memory, they are all good, too many memories to choose a favorite… too much good,” said Jim with tears in his eyes.

They each had a little gem of wisdom regarding their success and longevity.

“The secret is patience, understanding and just being yourself,” said DeVonne. 

“I think the secret is having consideration for each other and a sense of humor” said Jim. “I’m really hard of hearing, that helps our relationship too,” he laughed. 

Fall River County Herald Star

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