Snookie, Dottie made room for Uncle SamNovember 29, 2019
By BILL POWELL
JASPER — Elijah “Snookie” Wiley and the former Dorothy “Dottie” Blodget will observe their 66th wedding anniversary on New Year’s Day.
Snookie and Dottie are strong, active Methodists living in Jasper and forever trusting God as their co-pilot. But, while they were still newlyweds, Uncle Sam commandeered their little Love Boat, shipping Snookie to Korea.
Snookie, 86, was born in eastern Indiana’s Switzerland County. His father, in addition to farming, delivered groceries from a huckster truck and Snookie helped him make the rounds in Ohio and Switzerland counties.
Kids familiar with an old radio program called “The Baby Snooks Show” gave Snookie his nickname when he was a small boy. It was a cool nickname for a boy playing basketball and baseball for the Vevay High School Warriors.
He and Dottie became an item at a skating party in the early 1950s, and a mischievous and delighted Snookie says, “I don’t know, I just can’t get rid of her now!”
They exchanged vows Jan. 1, 1954, and lived with Snookie’s parents in the Wiley family farmhouse for the first year of their marriage because, Dottie says, “we thought he was going to be drafted at any time.”
When a draft notice didn’t come, Snookie and a now-pregnant Dottie rented a house in January 1955, bought furniture and ended up welcoming a son who was a couple of weeks old when Snookie’s official military draft letter arrived.
Their furniture went into storage and Dottie moved back into her in-laws’ farmhouse as Snookie reported to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, for basic training.
When it was learned Snookie would remain an extra couple of months at Fort Leonard Wood for engineering training, Dottie visited him from September to November 1955 ... and got pregnant again, this time with a girl.
Eventually, Snookie landed at a place called Camp Humphreys in Korea as a member of a unit with a rich history: Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the “first to fight” 11th Engineer Battalion, aka The Jungle Cats.
The “first to fight” tag came from the 11th landing in France in 1917, the first American unit to enter the World War I European theater. The 11th Engineers were repairing some railroad track when Germans overran their position. The American engineers grabbed some rifles and work-site hand tools and held their position.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, the 11th tackled the rugged terrain and dense jungle of the Panama Canal Zone, adding the Panama Black Panther to the unit crest and assuming the “Jungle Cats” nickname.
There was work and then reconstruction chores for the 11th Engineers in World War II and again in Korea during Snookie’s tenure.
Today the unit is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Snookie says he was part of a bridge-building outfit and that is what he expected to be doing while in Korea. But, when his unit needed a personnel clerk and Snookie’s typing skills acquired at Vevay High School became known, he pulled safe, but important, desk duty.
“It was pretty barren where we were at,” he says. “Everything had been shot off the hills.”
When he returned stateside after 17 months in Korea, Snookie became an Army Reservist assigned to a chemical company. That Army Reserve unit in Madison specialized in putting fog oil in smoke machines pulled by Jeeps.
“These were big machines and you made smoke for diversions and to hide your troops,” Snookie says.
In 1957, Snookie took a job at Clifty Creek Power Plant in Madison, across from Clifty Falls State Park.
Then, in 1960, Snookie and Dottie moved to Boonville and he was hired on at the SIGECO power plant in Newburgh that is now a Vectren power generating station.
Snookie never missed a day of work in 34 years and he and Dottie were 43-year members of Main Street United Methodist Church in Boonville, where Snookie was a trustee for nine years.
Their first-born son, Bruce, and his wife, Ruth, live in Winter Park, Florida. Their third and final child, Mark, born in 1959, lives in Henderson, Nevada, with his wife, Karen.
Their daughter, Connie, married David Nigg. The Niggs live in Jasper, which is why Snookie and Dottie moved here after Snookie’s retirement 26 years ago. They are members of Shiloh United Methodist Church and Snookie belongs to Jasper Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 673.
Retirement has given Snookie and Dottie an opportunity to volunteer and they have made eight mission trips to Appalachia. Snookie has helped on 25 Habitat for Humanity houses and, every Tuesday for more than 20 years, he was part of a crew of Methodist volunteers doing the upkeep on the Historic Santa Claus Campground.
Even a long battle with bladder cancer did not stop the retired power plant foreman from tramping off to his days of labor and outdoor ministry at the Santa Claus Campground cabins and woods off Spencer County Road 625E.
Dottie, who recognized Snookie’s love for that children’s camp, always trusted God to take care of her husband. Dottie says she started life as a shy woman but came out of her shell during 22 years as a kindergarten assistant and then librarian at Oakdale Elementary School in Boonville.
Snookie says he would not change anything.
“Things are made to happen,” he says. “You’ve just got to go with the flow sometimes.”
It is The Herald's goal to preserve the stories of Dubois County’s military veterans. If you are a veteran who would like to tell us your story or know a veteran whose story you'd like to share, please contact the newsroom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-482-2626.
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