Sunday, December 8, 2013
It happened just before midnight Wednesday at the Portland International Jetport.
Dodie Schmidgall and Jim Snodgrass, who met as children many years ago, were wed Thursday on Beauchamp Point overlooking Rockport Harbor.
Marti Stone photo
A late-arriving flight had just landed. And as the procession of weary passengers streamed down the escalator to the baggage claim, an elderly couple stood just off to the side hugging and kissing.
"Too much lovin'!" chuckled an African-American woman as she passed by.
Little did she know.
His name is Jim Snodgrass. He's 79, has lived most of his adult life in Southern California and, until last week, had never laid eyes on Maine.
Her name is Dodie Schmidgall. She's 70, has spent the last 35 years living in midcoast Maine and last laid eyes on Jim ... what was it, 51 years ago?
Theirs is a story about loneliness, about loss and about that modern-day miracle called the Internet.
But mostly it's a story about hope.
Dodie, whose surname was Nichols before she married Richard Schmidgall way back in 1964, grew up in Granite City, Ill.
Jim, known to his family and friends as "Jimmy" when he was young, grew up 20 miles away in Alton, Ill.
Exactly when and how they met as children will forever be a mystery -- their parents and anyone else who might be able to fill in the blanks are all long gone. But there's one thing Dodie never forgot.
"I remember my mother telling me when I was in my early teens that Jimmy Snodgrass was my 'first boyfriend,' " she recalled. "And that's all I remember."
Maybe it was the fact that both families belonged to the Assemblies of God church, although in different districts.
Or maybe it had something to do with a family by the name of Cherry, who were friends with Jimmy's folks in Alton and had relatives who lived four houses down from Dodie in Granite City.
Whatever it was, one day when Dodie was 18 and working at the First Bank of St. Louis, a handsome, 27-year-old man who worked in the same building walked up to her in the cafeteria and said, "Hi Dodie. I'm Jimmy."
How did he recognize her?
"I can't put it together," Jim replied. "I just did."
Now don't get the wrong idea here. At the time, Jim already had a wife named Ruth and a baby daughter. And Dodie was dating someone and would never dream of taking up with a married man.
"In those days, you didn't do that," she said.
But they liked each other. They shared the same religion. And for a year or so, they'd meet occasionally for coffee or lunch and just enjoy each other's company.
"Then she went her direction and I went my direction," Jim said.
That's an understatement.
Jim, who became and remains to this day an Assembly of God minister, ended up in Chino, Calif., where he and Ruth spent 56 blissful years raising two daughters and a son.
Dodie, meanwhile, married Richard Schmidgall in Illinois and eventually moved to Maine, where they ran a bed and breakfast in Camden for 18 years while raising three sons.
Then on Christmas Eve in 2009, Rich died of cancer. For the first time in 45 years, Dodie found herself alone in her home in Thomaston and, well, beyond miserable.
"Loneliness is the big factor," Dodie said, recalling how most of the couples with whom she and Rich socialized quickly vanished. "You're suddenly the extra wheel. And no matter how close you were before, it's just like you don't exist anymore."
"They just drop you like a hot potato," he said.
Dodie passed the time with crossword puzzles, the numbers game "Sudoku" and, when all else failed, late-night television. She joined a grief support group, hoping to find a way out of her morass.
(Continued on page 2)