UPPER MACUNGIE TWP., Pa. - Prominent local Republican and entrepreneur Charles Snelling took his wife's life and then ended his own, according to a family spokesperson.
The couple's bodies were found Thursday morning inside their home at 1280 Church St. in Upper Macungie Twp., Lehigh Co., the coroner said.
"For the past several years our mother had been afflicted by Alzheimer's, and together they struggled greatly to manage the effects of this devastating disease," read a statement released by the family Thursday evening. "After apparently reaching the point where he could no longer bear to see the love of his life deteriorate further, our father ended our mother's life and then took his own life as well."
Wayne Woodman, chairman of the Lehigh County Republican Committee, points to a recent New York Times opinion article about Snelling and his and Adrienne's love story.
The Snellings, married for 61 years, had five children and 11 grandchildren, according to an online biography.
"This is a total shock to everyone in the family, but we know he acted out of deep devotion and profound love," the statement read. "They were wonderful parents and grandparents."
Charles Snelling was the chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in Washington, D.C., Woodman said. Snelling first served on the board in 2003 after he was nominated by President George W. Bush.
He also served on Allentown City Council and supported numerous local, state, and national campaigns.
"He was a larger-than-life figure, vivacious. He was a renaissance man, full of energy and an appetite for challenge," said Woodman. "Charlie challenged everyone to be the best that they could be. He was relentless in his pursuit of what was fair, what was right. He believed in the values that made America great. He himself lived those values. He never rested. On his morals, he continued everyday to pursue the virtuous path forward in this country politically."
Snelling was also the holder of 20 patents and was a former president of Allentown City Council, according to his online biography.
The Snellings had a longtime bond with Cedar Crest College in Allentown.
Adrienne Snelling graduated from Cedar Crest in 1952 with a degree in psychology and Charles Snelling served on the college's board of trustees.
"At Cedar Crest College, we mourn the loss of two wonderful and caring people deeply involved with and dedicated to the community and our institution for more than 60 years," said college president Carmen Twillie Ambar. " I had the opportunity to meet and know both Adrienne and Charles, but particularly Charles in his role as a member of our Board of Trustees. I always welcomed and appreciated his clarity of purpose, his strong voice, and his commitment to this College. We extend our sympathy, thoughts and prayers to family and friends of Adrienne and Charles during this difficult time."
According to the college, the Snellings were honored in 2007 with the Cedar Crest Associates Award for their lasting efforts and commitment to the college.
Dr. Snelling was a life member of the Cedar Crest College Board of Trustees, elected to the board in 1973. He received an honorary doctorate of public service from Cedar Crest in 2000 for his extraordinary leadership and service to Cedar Crest and to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
As a trustee, Dr. Snelling worked to bring major projects to fruition, such as the Rodale Aquatic Center.
Autopsies are scheduled to be performed on Friday to determine how the Snellings died, said Scott Grim, the Lehigh County coroner.
Allentown, PA 18102