A 90-year-old World War II veteran inspired the nation last week, after he ditched his walking cane to pull his wheelchair-bound wife to safety when a fire erupted inside their North Carolina home.
The first thought that came to Arthur Schneider’s mind when lightning hit a street transformer outside, causing his home to burst into flames was that he was not leaving without his wife, Rosemary.
Rosemary, Arthur’s wife of nearly 70 years, was in the far back of the house when the fire broke out. And Rosemary has Parkinson’s disease and dementia, rendering her completely unable to walk.
“I had to go back and get her,” Arthur told New York Daily News. “She’s part of me.”
The lightning storm caused the power in the Schneider’s home to go out, leaving it so dark that Arthur could not even see “[his] hand in front of [his] face.”
But that didn’t stop him.
Arthur blindly felt his way through the blazing house until he reached Rosemary in the back, wheeling her out to safety on their back porch.
Schneider — who usually relies on a walking cane due to a “terrible limp” — then sprinted through his yard the size of a football field (without a cane!) to get help.
Neighbors rushed to the rescue, calling 911 and retrieving Rosemary from the back porch. But by the time the fire was extinguished, half of the Schneider home was already destroyed.
Arthur refuses to accept acclamation for his heroic act on Thursday evening, saying that anyone in the same situation would respond in a similar fashion.
“I don’t know if it’s so incredible,” Arthur said. “I think anybody else would do the same thing.”
But his daughter, Bernadette Such, says that this incident is only one of many examples of Arthur’s commitment to his wife.
When Rosemary was placed in hospice care a couple years ago, Arthur took over as her primary caretaker — cleaning and feeding her daily.
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that causes motor and movement-related disabilities, leaving many patients — such as Rosemary Schneider — unable to move without assistance.
“My dad is a saint,” Such has said. “[He’ll] go straight to heaven for what he’s done for her the last two or three years.”
The Schneider couple was first acquainted during World War II when Arthur was serving in the Navy, stationed in Guam, and Rosemary would write him letters. They met face-to-face six months later, married in 1946 and proceeded to have nine children.
And upon Rosemary’s diagnosis, Arthur even arranged for his wife’s hospital-style bed to be placed next to his own so that they could continue to sleep in each other’s company.
“It’s a good marriage,” he says. “When you live together and you love somebody, you can’t afford to lose it.”
And upon being asked how he was able to do all that he did without his cane, Arthur wasn’t quite sure. But what Arthur did know, ABC News reported, was that he was going to make it out alive…and with Rosemary by his side.
“I guess God gives us a little strength when we need it.”