Remembering Edna Snyder

(Delivered at Edna Snyders’s memorial service, November 29, 2014)

Our pastor at Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church, Dr. Randall Tremba, told me that Edna Snyder, our oldest member, had asked if I would sing at her memorial service. I want you all to know that I sang for her last night and you have been spared. Frankly, it would have been much too difficult. And for the record, it was not “How Great Thou Art” but Harry Connick’s “A Wink and Smile.”

1982, a week before our wedding, I still had not found a place for my future wife, Libby, and me to live. I knew we wanted to be close to Shepherdstown but, as relative newcomers, finding the right spot was a challenge. I was in a bit of a panic. Greg Didden suggested I seek an audience with then-County Commissioner, Henry Snyder. He had a few rental properties or might have some ideas.

As fate would have it, Henry was traveling and with the proper clearances, I arranged an interview with Mrs. Snyder. I drove down the long lane to their stately sandstone home admiring the freshly tilled garden with a vintage tractor and single-spade plow resting in the last row.

I walked up path around the big shade tree, rang the bell and a lovely lady with short tightly curled hair and a twinkle in her eye greeted me at the door. She invited me to sit in the parlor— a real parlor—and I sat down carefully and as straight and proper as I could in the finely-upholstered antique chair. I don’t remember exactly what we discussed. I think she found a way to check out my politics as I offered a little background on my work and my aspirations, but what I remember most was that twinkle, almost a wink in her eye, when she smiled. Whatever else, I had taken a shine to Edna Snyder.

Two days later, I received a call from Mr. Snyder and we met at a small brown asphalt-sided cottage right on Ridge Road just three hundred yards from the entrance to their lane. It had a stunning view of the Blue Ridge.

Larry and Gerry Crawleywoods were just moving out and after giving me a short tour, Henry indicated that he would be pleased to rent it to us for the princely sum of $300 a month. I could hardly contain myself and later that day left one month’s rent and a one-month security deposit in their mailbox literally on my way to Detroit, Michigan, and my wedding. We would be back in three weeks to move in.

It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.

Edna was a dog lover and Chessie, our golden retriever, was first to make fast friends with Edna and Andy, the Snyder’s handsome collie. Most mornings, we would let Chessie out and she would wander across the field below us, saunter up to the Snyder’s back door, and wait patiently for a treat, a few strokes and kind words from Edna, and a short romp with Andy, before heading back across the field and home.

This was a routine I myself followed on occasion but I went down at 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon, when I was assured of a good drink, a comprehensive dose of local gossip, and a dose of dry wit and wisdom. Nothing could have been easier or more comfortable than sitting with Henry and Edna in their kitchen and if I timed it right I might catch Edna when she was canning something fresh from the garden. She managed to captured summer in a jar. Between Henry’s cured hams, the potatoes in the bin, and canning in the pantry, they always had enough food laid up to feed themselves, and others, all winter long. They were a great team. They were salt of the earth.

Like me, Edna was known to have a cigarette once in a while. She would always say she only smoked when she had a nip or was mad at Henry. All I will say it that she didn’t drink enough to put in your eye so you know where most of the urge came from.

Henry and Edna sponsored us for the Jefferson County Cotillion, introduced us to the Presbyterian Church and to folks at Peoples Bank. Henry suggested I join him as a charter member of the Rotary Club of Shepherdstown. They were wonderful friends and mentors.

After seven years, we knew that we were about to outgrow the cottage and reluctantly decided to move closer to town. Contact grew less frequent, but I would see Henry at Rotary every week and we stayed up-to-date.

After Henry passed away, I would stop in occasionally to see Edna and it was so comfortable and easy. She always asked about our boys and remembered all the details.

I am personally grateful to her next-door neighbors, the Chambers, and to Carl and Judy Moore, who did so much to look after Edna and for always letting me know how she was doing.

Caught up with midlife responsibilities and two kids in college, I am very sad to say that I never made it to see Edna after she went into convalescent care. I will always regret that and confess it to you. Make time.

I will miss that wink and her smile.