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Seventy years and counting

Friendly Valley residents Lawrence and Helen Snipper celebrate big numbers and a life full of love

Posted: July 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 23, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Helen Snipper poses with a pompom as she celebrates her 93rd birthday and 70th wedding anniversary at the Old West Masonic Lodge in Friendly Valley on July 12.

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“We’ve had an interesting life. We’ve done a lot of things,” said Lawrence Snipper, 92, of his years with wife Helen, 93.

Well, “a lot of things” is an understatement. The Snippers recently celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary and Helen’s 93rd birthday at the same time. They celebrated it with their regular friends and lunch bunch at the Masonic Lodge in Friendly Valley — the neighborhood they have lived in since 1997.

Liebe for sure

Lawrence was born and grew up in Alhambra, and Helen was born in Connecticut. Her family moved to California when she was 2, and she was then raised in Los Angeles.

“We met at L.A. City College in 1938 in a German class,” Lawrence said. “I was sitting in front of Helen and she pulled my suspenders.”

Apparently, that was the right move because the two young people changed seats so they could sit together.

“When the teacher came in, he said, ‘I see there’s been a change of heart.’” Helen said.

And they’ve been together, more or less, ever since, as they became engaged in 1939. They finished up at L.A. City College, with Lawrence receiving his AA degree in chemistry and Helen receiving hers in language — and then they attended University of California, Los Angeles, where Helen eventually graduated with a degree in Spanish.

Lawrence, however saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, with regard to his student deferment, and so he joined the U.S. Navy in 1942, the year they married.

Navy years

Lawrence was first stationed at the naval hospital in San Diego, where he worked as a pharmacist mate. When Helen finished at UCLA in 1943 she joined him in San Diego, where she taught at the Brown Military Academy.

Lawrence was soon transferred to New Caledonia, and then volunteered for sea duty, aboard the U.S.S. Mobjack, a PT tender. This took him all over the Pacific.

He intended to eventually move to Portland, Ore., and attend Reed College, so Helen moved there while he was doing his duty. She taught at a girl’s school there.

Oregon days

When the war ended and Lawrence was released from the military, he joined Helen in Portland. The couple lived in a small apartment there and were soon joined by their son, Jim Snipper. Lawrence graduated from Reed with a BA in chemistry. Then he attended grad school at Oregon State University in Corvallis, and Helen got a teaching job there.

All over, together

Moves to Evansville, Ind., in 1951, and back to L.A. in 1955 followed. This time they lived in North Hollywood. Helen became a teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District, and Lawrence worked for the L.A. Community College District. He worked at Los Angeles Valley College, and she at Pacoima Junior High School. (Among other notable events, Ritchie Valens attended the school while she was there). The Snippers both advanced in their careers, but never allowed any of that to get in the way of their relationship.


Fast forward to 1979, and Helen retired, followed by Lawrence in 1980. They then moved to Waldport, Ore., where they had friends. There they built their own home on the coast.

In 1997, the Snippers returned to the Los Angeles area to be near family, and they bought a home in Friendly Valley. Lawrence has been a past president and is current president of Homeowners Association No. 4 there.

“We’ve had a great time here,” he said.

Their son, Jim Snipper, and his family live in Castaic, as well as their two granddaughters and three great granddaughters.

How to go long

Only a brief synopsis of a wonderful life together can be expressed here, but the Snippers feel it’s worth mentioning how they did it.

“We like each other,” Helen said simply. “You have to like each other as well as love each other.”

“We respect each other,” Lawrence said. “We recognize there are things you don’t share. For example, I never go into Helen’s purse. And Helen respects the things that I have.”

He added, “We don’t need other people. We are with each other. We’ve traveled. We are satisfied and we’ve had an excellent life.”

Lawrence said that the couple will have occasional disagreements, but “We never go to sleep with that. We apologize.”

“We know how to communicate,” Helen summarized.



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