Dear Mr. Snyder,
You never let us call you “Colonel” even though one of your many military medals was pinned on you by Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. We were always amazed that someone like you would be so devoted to us. A person who had flown B-52s (Oh, how we loved to compare the size of one to a football field!), had climbed Mt. Everest to 19,000 feet… Had an asteroid named after him, an observatory built and named in his honor, his name placed with the other names of people who had made the Jack C. Davis Observatory a reality, taught astronomy at WNC, had for years been President of the Society for Astronomical Sciences… And how you adored and trusted your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids! When your youngest granddaughter was clinging to life, and you heard how she’d been saving for a laptop, how you bought the exact one she wanted. You flew with it out-of-state, on the first plane, to where she waited for life-saving surgery. The laptop was almost twice her size; when she opened it you could barely see the top of her precious little head. Heck, the laptop was almost as big as you, Mr. Snyder! How filled with quiet amazement you were that morning, before you got on the plane, telling me softly that you had prayed the night before. Only for your little wisp of a granddaughter would you have done that… You were right there with your help, financial and other, when illness befell my students, their parents, or my colleagues. Your compassion didn’t extend only to the one who was ill, but embraced the entire family. You graciously distracted them with restaurant visits, plays, movies, the Animal Ark and much more… And, of course, jokes. Always, jokes. Forgive me, Mr. Snyder, but some of them weren’t as funny as you thought. Yet they never failed to bring laughter and respite from the pain and worry. And the magic you brought into our classroom… In Math class, even the most timid student of measurement would leap with pride after your teaching made a ruler a piece of cake! Your twinkling eyes when the class shared its successes with you; the sports cards, the treats, the scholarships…The buffets for those who persevered and achieved new heights in learning… And the magic tricks you taught as neighboring tables grew silent, watching the magic unfold: smiling with delight as the students went over and repeated the newly learned tricks just for them. The matchbox trick was always the highlight, although catching “mice” at the buffet – to release them later – was also a big hit. How proud you were of the students’ thank you cards that you faithfully displayed on your bulletin board! Everyone who came to see you was shown the cards, always beginning with the one from the young man who wrote that he wanted to be like you – kind and generous, and making the world a better place. You turned away for a moment when you read it to me the first time. Your eyes were not only twinkling with delight, but glistening with emotion. Remember the year a student, dragging a huge sack of canned goods for the F.I.S.H. food collection, sadly told you that he never wins anything? That evening you showed up at school with boxes of canned food filling every nook and cranny of your SUV. At the ice cream party the class won, he made you a card that said, “You are my hero!” It was the first time the rest of us could read his handwriting. Every acquaintance of yours was also a friend. If it meant driving many miles each week to comfort one, you did… Fairy tales can come true and you, Mr. Snyder, made many of them do just that… ith much love and deep gratitude, forever, Your family and friends, My students, their families, and my colleagues, – Mrs. G.