Bagpiper Grants Veteran's Dying Wish

Published 07.31.2018

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A bagpiper pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Pennsylvania College of Technology helped to make a terminally ill World War II veteran’s dying wish come true when he played outside the man’s Montgomery County home on July 26.

“I can’t believe this. I hope I deserve it,” 96-year-old Harry Snyder told a WTXF television reporter after Jeffrey T. Steen, an applied management student from Coatesville, played. Snyder’s wish was to hear bagpipes before they play at his funeral, the television station reported. According to the account, he has cancer.

A deputy game warden for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Steen is active in veteran and law enforcement communities. A friend who is a Marine veteran and knows Snyder arranged the service.

“We try to honor our veterans and first responders as often as we can with services such as this,” Steen said.

Steen also plays in parades, at memorial dedications, at military and first-responder award ceremonies, and at military and first-responder funeral services. In 2010, he was invited to play in the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Killorglin, Ireland, and while there, he played at the Cliffs of Moher.

“I have been playing seriously for almost 15 years,” Steen said. “I have always had an affection for the pipes and visited Scotland in 2006 to visit my forefathers’ ancestral home. The trip fueled the pipe passion beyond just listening to them.”

To be called upon to grant Snyder’s wish is an honor he will always cherish.

“We are the last generation to know our World War II veterans and the sacrifices they gave for our freedoms,” Steen said. “Every veteran I encounter has a story. To hear those stories keeps them alive and relevant for future generations. I carry their legacies and cherish the memories of providing them with an ever-so-brief tribute – the least I can do.”

Having already earned an associate degree, Steen is completing his bachelor’s degree in applied management online.

“I was led to Penn College by its reputation for excellence and online degree programs designed for the working student,” Steen said. “Penn College has provided people like me the opportunity to finish their degrees while working full time. … I have been in the workforce for 31 years. It has taught me that you are never too old to learn. I have really enjoyed the applied management program and can speak to how relevant the material is to the workplace.”