Journey is more important than destination

 Part 1 -  Don's Life Journey 

Achieving personal and professional goals has always been a priority but never as gratifying as the journey of getting there. My life has been an intricate 83-year journey.  By revisiting several pivotal moments in my life's journey, I hope to uncover how my journey contributed to the person I am today. 

1. Birth and early childhood: I was born on November 2, 1940, at a Rockford, Illinois hospital. Dad bravely drove us all back home to the farm in a blinding snowstorm. My earliest memories of my youth began at the age of five when I first began to discover that Life on the farm centered around hard work and responsibility. Mom and Dad worked as a team in planting the crops, harvesting them, and caring for various farm animals, including dairy cows, beef cattle, and hogs. My grandparents played a crucial role in nurturing my older sister Nancy and me.  Grandpa Snodgrass taught me valuable life skills, while Grandma steadfastly guided our spiritual development.  These early experiences taught us the importance of hard work, dedication to the farm, and caring for each other.   Satisfying our personal needs always came last.

journey2. Failing the third grade: Although initially a devastating experience, this event certainly paid off later in life. Adjusting to city school life proved challenging. I felt that my city classmates looked down on me for being a country hick. Mathematics became my Achilles' heel as I could only add and subtract numbers by counting on my fingers.  Because of these difficulties, my teacher and parents decided it best that I repeat the third grade. This experience taught me the importance of getting up after being knocked down.

3. Growing up on the farm: While I can't claim that it was always a pleasurable existence, it certainly was a challenging and rewarding one. I loved living in the country which offered a profound connection to nature, diligent work, and a robust sense of neighborly cooperation. I am thankful for the opportunity to have assumed personal responsibility at an early age by helping to care for the animals and undertaking various other tasks associated with farm life.

4. Help from a caring high school teacher:  My high school vocational agriculture teacher persuaded my parents to enroll me in the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois.  In those days, farm kids like me typically stayed on the farm to follow in their father’s footsteps. Moreover, as a C+ student, I didn't consider myself a good prospect for getting a college degree.  Despite my doubts, my parents sided with my teacher, and I found myself on the path to becoming an overachiever, surprising even myself.  Later in life, when that same teacher passed away, his widow chose me to be one of his pallbearers, a gesture that became a testament to the profound impact that one teacher and my parents had on my journey.

5. Graduating from the University of Illinois:  Initially, I doubted that earning a degree in Agriculture would be achievable. Thanks to the fraternity I had joined, my assigned big brother, and insistence from my parents, I was able to accomplish this important goal.  As a student and fraternity member, I gained valuable insights beyond just passing tests and writing papers.  It convinced me of the importance of education, which later motivated me to become a life-long learner.

6. Drafted into the military:  Soon after graduation, I received my Army draft notice forcing me to abandon my previous plans and pursue a much different and then unwelcome journey. Fortunately, I had previously met a Navy Captain who, like my high school teacher, may have believed that I possessed the necessary leadership skills to better serve my country as a commission officer. As such, he persuaded the Army to release me provided I joined the Navy and attended Navy Officer Candidate School (OCS).  On November 22, 1963, I found myself on an airliner at 36,000 feet en route to OCS. That's when the pilot came over the intercom to announce that former President Kennedy had been assassinated. 

7. Commissioned a Navy Ensign: Mom and Dad drove to Newport, Rhode Island to attend the ceremony.  For me, this was not just an achievement but an honor to serve my country in a leadership role. Suddenly, my draft notice transformed into a ticket to my future rather than an obstacle.   Mom and Dad always encouraged me to work hard and do my best in whatever comes my way, including service in the Navy. 

8. Starting a family: After eight years of just being friends, my wife Pat and I were married in 1967. Shortly after our wedding, I left for a shipboard deployment to the Western Pacific from the ship’s homeport in San Diego, California. Seven months later I returned home with Pat waiting on the pier amongst other Navy wives and families to welcome us home.  She was seven months pregnant with our son Mark.  I was simply overwhelmed by the sight of her.  This was the first of many future homecomings we treasured together.

9.  Rewarding 27-year Navy career:   I began my journey at a naval air station on the Island of Guam which eventually evolved into five years in Navy aviation.  Later, I transitioned to ship assignments including command of two of the nine ships I served on. Shore assignments consisted of a tour of duty in the Pentagon and attendance at the Naval War College where I earned master's degrees in management and strategic planning. I retired from the Navy in 1989.

10. Post-Navy life:  Transitioning back to civilian life wasn't as easy as I had hoped.  I held various positions, but none quite measured up to my Navy experiences. My general intolerance of company management and fellow employees was a major contributor to job dissatisfaction.

11. Passing of Mom and Dad:  Despite my time away from home, I had been eager to be back home with Dad and Mom.  Sadly, Dad passed away soon after my Navy retirement.  Mom, despite her blindness, lived a long life before passing away just before her 100th birthday.  I miss them both and will always appreciate the critical role they played in guiding my journey.

12. Our son dies: Just like Dad, our son Mark left us too soon following a turbulent life.  The pain of his death will forever haunt our memories of him.  More about Mark is included elsewhere on this website.

13. Life goes on: With a low mortgage interest rate, we have decided to stay put in Montgomery at least for now.  Our home is relatively easy to maintain and live comfortably.  Eventually, once one of us passes, the one remaining will likely sell the house and move on to a smaller one.

carefulwish14. Fear of losing our democracy. I attribute this to the rise of selfish nationalism in our country, spearheaded by mostly self-centered Republicans who continue to blindly support former President Trump. Despite my conservative upbringing, I now no longer identify myself as a Republican.   I strongly urge all Americans to seek the real truth and cast their vote for candidates who possess the right character and qualifications to lead America and the rest of the free world.  Above all else, that candidate should pledge to reunite our now fractured United States.  I ask that you persuade your family and friends to also become involved rather than remain on the sidelines.  


"With Pat’s continued love and support, I hope to succeed in extending my life’s journey well into my 90’s.   I will also continue my pursuit of truth while strengthening my body and mind to better cope with new challenges to come."

Part 2 -  Importance of family

My early family life was happy and rewarding.  I am thankful to Dad, Mom, my sister, and our grandparents who provided strong emotional bonds, personal support, shared values, and a nurturing environment.  Each played a pivotal role in shaping my own personal development and overall well-being.  Here is how I characterize each member of my family:

family1.  Me:  I was the spoiled baby of the family and took advantage of it any way I could.  My older sister, Nancy, being bigger and stronger, helped Dad with the heavier farm chores.  I did not particularly like farm work and was more content and happier to busy myself learning how to operate equipment and make things work correctly.  High school was a turning point in my life.  By then I had significantly matured and, in the process, became more socialized including playing football, joining student clubs, enjoying being around the girls, and driving my first car, a 1959 Oldsmobile.

2.  Dad:   As an only son himself, he was naturally the one who would eventually take over the farm from his father.  My grandpa was always a source of encouragement during the ownership transition process.  Annex A to this article provides Don's reminiscences about his Grandpa Snodgrass.  Dad took a “no-nonsense” approach to life. With mom at his side, he worked long hours managing and working the farm.  He exercised a high degree of “tough love” toward my sister and me which I never fully appreciated until later in life.  I used this same approach once Pat and I started our own family, to the detriment of our own son’s development.  Dad was the one who was proudest of my accomplishments, especially during my Navy career.  Perhaps this was validation of his decision to persuade me to seek higher education and forego returning to the farm. I was with him when he died. I often reflect on just how much he meant to me.  I believe that he did love me, and I know I loved him even though the word love was rarely spoken.

family23. Mom:  As a city girl and school dropout, marrying dad and moving to the farm was a considerable challenge for mom. She made the transition with great determination and perseverance.  I could do no wrong in her eyes. She tended to favor me over my sister who was Dad’s favorite.  Unquestionably, Mom was the dominant person in our early family life. She remained that way throughout her long life. Like Dad, my mom did not openly express love for us.

3. Sister: Nancy was more aggressive than I in our youth.   She was very gregarious and especially enjoyed working outdoors and riding horses.  However, unlike me, she was eager to start a family rather than pursue higher education and go out into the world.  We both rarely openly expressed love for one another.   Nancy effectively raised two sons who each became successful in life.   Pat and I wish we could have done as well with our son, Mark.

4. Wife:  My wife Pat of 56 years has always been a wonderful companion and partner in our journey of life together.  My deep affection and admiration for her is solid and enduring.  Over the years, our shared experiences have strengthened our bond and eagerness to continue our journey.   Pat was a remarkable Navy wife.  I could not have achieved my professional goals without her.  Having purchased and sold 18 houses over the years, we take great pride in having turned each house into our home.   However, those frequent moves resulted in having to leave family and newly found friends behind which we will always regret.

5. Son:  Mark led a troubled and uncertain life culminating in his death in 2021.   Regrettably, once entering high school, he began to lose motivation and reject adherence to expected norms of behavior.  Eventually, he dropped out of school to begin many years of a mostly nomadic existence.  Pat and I believe that our frequent absence from home was a contributing factor.  Pat was a working Navy mom, and I was away at sea more than half the time.  In the final years of his life, we finally bonded together with renewed optimism that he had finally found happiness and a true purpose in life.  Mark left two sons behind.   

6. Sophie:  She is our English Springer Spaniel companion who was once a successful show dog.  She was gifted to us at the age of eight by her breeder in Florida.  She acts more human than canine.  We are so fortunate to have her in our life. 

dontree7. Family heritage:   Pat and I have been members of the genealogy website “” for the past three years. provides access to a vast collection of historical records, including census data, birth and death certificates, military records, and more.  Our ancestors immigrated to America to begin a challenging life.  Mine came from Germany with a mostly agrarian lifestyle. Pat’s ancestors were Siberian and largely middle-class blue-collar workers.  The webpage at describes our family tree in considerable detail.

8. Philosophical:  Pat and my philosophy of life is largely conservative and based on a solid foundation of hard work and teamwork to achieve happiness and prosperity.  We believe in the importance of consistent effort to collectively achieve established goals with a strong shared sense of accomplishment.  Our philosophy draws inspiration from our cultural/societal norms that prioritize stability, self-reliance and always doing our very best in whatever we undertake.

9. Spiritual.   I am a person without an actual Christ-centered spiritual outlook on life.  Admittedly, I believe in some form of a higher power and have spent much of my life exploring and seeking the true meaning of faith, reality, and existence.  I remain open-minded, curious, and eager to explore the mysteries of my earthly existence.   I do not fear death.

10. Failures.   I never became a very loving husband, father, or friend and should have been far more supportive, understanding, and affectionate, especially with our son Mark.  Although I easily make new acquaintances, I don’t have many true friends.  I consider myself to be a generally cold person who easily becomes impatient, intolerant, and unforgiving of the self-centered actions of others.   Sadly, I believe that many Americans could care less.

family3As a child of the 50’s I treasure family life then over what it is today.  Sadly, It has undergone significant alterations including changes in gender roles, family member diversity, parenting styles, education, social norms, and other work vs life challenges.  Technological advancements have brought about positive and profound negative changes to the family structure. While it has enhanced communications and greater access to educational resources, it also poses unique challenges that can potentially degrade human interactions and a decline in meaningful interactions within families.  Moreover, invalid information and the pressure to stay digitally connected with others contribute to increased stress and anxiety. We should all find a balance between embracing technology's benefits and mitigating its drawbacks, so crucial to building strong and healthy personal and family relationships.  Finally, all too many of our citizens do not think that the government and its elected leaders are all that important anymore.  Let’s work together to strengthen our democratic institutions and unite ourselves in a common pursuit of democracy and adherence to the rule of law.  There is too much at stake to continue tolerating those amongst us who prefer division and chaos over the American way.

Annex A - Ode to Grandpa Snodgrass


Part 3 -  Money

Money is the root of all evil” does not mean that all money or wealth is inherently evil.  Rather, the love of money can often become the source of evil.  Focusing on accumulating wealth can lead to negative consequences.

Pat and I strongly believe that money should come as a result of hard work and earned success rather than the primary motivation for employment. Unfortunately, many job seekers prioritize their paychecks over the drive to excel and advance in their careers. It is crucial to seek jobs that offer the most potential for personal development and advancement, disregarding the starting salary, and dedicating oneself to giving their best effort. Doing so is likely to yield long-term benefits.

Undeniably, the importance of income versus excelling on the job varies based on individual priorities, values, and circumstances. The urgency of having enough money to live on is particularly crucial for those just finishing high school, seeking higher education, starting a family, and entering the job market.

Our parents taught us to always prioritize achieving success over everything else. However, our philosophy hasn’t always led to moneypositive results by not managing our spending wisely, not making wise investments, and not exercising thriftiness when shopping for groceries, among other things.

They also reminded us that "money isn't everything," emphasizing the importance of relationships, experiences, happiness, and personal growth. Having all the money in the world can never buy true happiness. If mismanaged, money can become detrimental within the family structure, often leading to marriage breakups.

During my Navy career, I witnessed firsthand the financial struggles of recruits who married before being adequately prepared emotionally and financially for greater responsibilities. Starting our life together was challenging, especially since my initial Navy income was insufficient.  By Pat starting her career we were able to meet expenses.  Moreover, it significantly strengthened our marriage partnership, especially during my Navy deployments.

As we've aged, money has become less critical due to my Navy pension, our social security retirement income, and essentially free lifetime healthcare.  Our decision for me to make the Navy a career has paid off in big ways.  It has enabled us to live comfortably in our retirement years.

Money still matters in meeting new challenges brought on by mostly age-related health issues.  Without long-term healthcare insurance, our savings and other assets might likely be drained. Our mitigation plan includes staying healthy, supporting each other physically and emotionally, resisting nursing home admission, opting instead for in-home assistance as needed, and downsizing to reduce expenses after one of us passes away.

My advice to others is to consciously develop and maintain a plan for their future, especially for the day when they can no longer work due mostly to age-related health issues. Your plan should also encompass strategies for compensating for the emotional impact of the eventual loss of family and friends. Always, always, strive to plan ahead!

Part 4 – Careers

I refuse to adhere to the concept of retirement.  For me, life is all about the journey, not just the destination.  I am convinced that learning should be a lifelong commitment, especially to keep pace in our fast-paced and rapidly changing world and to do my part in helping recapture the American way. ”

Following graduation from the University of Illinois College of Agriculture in 1963, I was drafted into the army. Opting for the Navy, I was subsequently commissioned at the Navy’s Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, marking the beginning of a remarkable 27-year career.

My naval career was marked by a series of sea assignments, including commanding officer of two ships.  Shore duties consisted of a tour in the Pentagon as the Director of the Amphibious Warfare Branch.  I also studied at the Naval War College, where I concurrently earned two master’s degrees. in management and strategic planning.  During my Navy career, I was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat Insignia, Legion of Merit, and the Meritorious Service Medal.  I retired from the Navy in January 1989 with the rank of Captain.

careergoalsAlthough I had retired from the Navy, I forged ahead to achieve new career objectives in the public and private sectors.   I started by first serving the University of Illinois as the Cooperative Extension Unit Director for Lee County, Illinois where I planned and implemented educational programs for our residents.   I also created six websites and taught various internet and computer technology courses aimed at preparing our residents for the explosion of the Internet age that was just beginning.

In 1997 I was hired for the newly created position of director of operations and customer support for a legal document assembly software company near San Antonio, Texas. I built and led a high-performance team of ten men, achieving excellence in customer technical support, training, software testing, production, and shipping.

Next, I was chosen to be the coordinator of adult education Programs for Calloway County, Kentucky. I devoted my full attention to developing and implementing education and community development programs that contributed to the growth and success of all adult education programs including GED.

Following my final retirement in 1990, I shifted efforts to my other avocations, website design, antique furniture restoration, landscape horticulture, handmade winemaking, and continuing education.

My primary career objective has always been to achieve success and help others to succeed.   For me, success is all about making progress and learning from mistakes.  Ultimately, my success has been about achieving personal fulfillment and satisfaction in life.  There is no substitute for hard work and determination.  If you accept my advice and keep moving forward, you will likely achieve your objectives in life.  Keep charging

Part 5 – Thoughts about dying


I believe that we humans are simply part of our natural world and universe.  Even though we occupy a key place in evolution, our ability to reason does not necessarily make us superior to other beings.   After all, we are unable to fly, swim long distances underwater without air tanks, return to our birthplaces blindfolded, live in harmony with all living things, etc.    Just because humans can make it to the moon does not grant them special purpose and privilege in the universe.    Moreover, male domination often precipitates more harm than good including fighting never-ending wars just to gain power over others.    We "males" particularly fail in our moral obligation to seek understanding with others and preserve peace on the planet.  To excuse our actions by saying "we are only human" is an admission that we are not the superior beings that we claim to be.   lastly, our supposed superior ability to reason particularly during presidential election campaigns has become farcical at best.  

My death will only be meaningful in someone else’s memory of me and the life that I’ve led.   Given that I don’t espouse any particular religious beliefs, the thought of death is a relatively simple process for me to comprehend.  As such, without believing in an afterlife or divine intervention, I can freely approach my eventual death without losing focus on the here and now.  This includes continuing to live a fulfilling and meaningful life together with my wife Pat, and our beloved dog Sophie.

I do not necessarily view death as a negative or frightening concept. Rather, it is simply a transition from one state of existence to another.  I am at peace with the idea that death is a release from the physical and mental complications of life.  I welcome death with the acceptance that when it comes it will be totally without the reassurance of any afterlife. This finality is liberating and not worrisome. I can focus on the present and make the most of whatever time I have left.  Any legacy I leave behind is merely a tangible representation of my time on Earth. It is only meaningful through the memories and actions of those I will leave behind.  

deathIn my final years, I will continue to resort to alternative coping mechanisms when dealing with the inevitability of my death.   Surely, I will not simply lean back in my recliner and just watch time go by.  Staying busy and being productive has always worked wonders for me.  Pat, Sophie, and I will continue to forge ahead in our journey of life with little concern for the final destination.

My death will be entirely my own experience. I will take it as it comes while acknowledging the richness of a long and rewarding life that Pat and I have shared.    I wish you the same.