LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The text message from Beverlee Schnellenberger came to me from her husband Howard’s cell phone number Thursday night:
It was a wedding picture of the coach and his bride. She held a bouquet in her right hand, which rested on his waist. He leaned in for a kiss, with his left hand on her right shoulder.
Her message was short: From Beverlee.
I have texted with her occasionally since July, after the unfortunate news arrived that Schnellenberger fell in their Boynton Beach, Florida home and needed surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.
I’d reminded her that Schnellenberger is adored here, for his high school career at Flaget High School, college career at the University of Kentucky and coaching career at the University of Louisville.
She knew that. But updates on how Howard progressed were brief without many specifics. I respected that and texted I would check back with her and Paul Gering, a former U of L football staffer and family friend, who played with Schnellenberger at Flaget.
This message was different. This was a text initiated by her. I thanked Beverlee and wrote:
“Great photo. I hope Coach is better and you are well.”
She texted back immediately: “Did you read the article (punctuated with a football emoji).”
I looked at my phone again. The wedding picture was actually a link to a wonderful 2,700-word story about the Schnellenbergers that Brian Biggane wrote for The Coastal Star, a monthly newspaper based in Ocean Ridge, Florida.
It was a story, which I highly recommend, about their more than 61 years together, starting from their meeting when Howard played in the Canadian Football League, touching all of his stops as a college and professional coach, the challenges they faced raising their sons and the latest on Howard’s health challenges.
According to Biggane, Schnellenberger, who will turn 87 in less than six weeks, was injured last July after he tripped on carpeting and hit his head on a metal owl statue that was a gift from the actor Burt Reynolds.
After undergoing surgery to remove blood from his brain, Schnellenberger was moved to a South Florida rehab facility. But another fall there sent him back to the hospital.
Three more surgeries followed. Concerns created by the novel coronavirus prevented Beverlee and the Schnellenberger’s two living sons, Tim and Stuart, from visiting for four months. (Their oldest son, Stephen, died of cancer in 2008 at the age of 48.)
Their communication was by telephone and FaceTime.
In November that changed. They’re able to visit in person twice a week.
“It’s really helped him to see us,” Beverlee told Biggane.
“One Sunday Tim was there and they were watching a Dolphins' game when Howard turned to Tim and said, ‘They need offense.’
“He’s aware of everything; he knows what’s going on. It’s just going to take time to get it working again.”
The story resonates with more than information on Howard’s determination to recover from the fall. It’s a love story more than a football story, shared by Beverlee.
Beverlee said that she first proposed to Howard — and his initial response was, “No.”
The tale winds through when Howard finally returned the proposal, her miscalculation to schedule their wedding in Montreal on the first Saturday in May and their long and winding road along the coaching trail.
Of their decision to come to Louisville in 1985, Beverlee said: “He knew everybody in Louisville. We said we weren’t interested, but they kept calling. The governor, John Y. Brown, got involved, and they put together a group that would subsidize him.”
Of his decision, 10 years later to leave Louisville for one harsh season at Oklahoma, Beverlee said: “They (the people at OU) didn’t like us and we didn’t like them. So we left.”
Beverlee sent several more texts. She remains strong for her husband. She punctuated all of them with football emojis.
As I wrote earlier, the story is more than 2,700 words. I encourage you to read it — and hope that Howard Schnellenberger continues on the path to a complete recovery.
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