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Monday, July 23, 2007

A good soldier passes

Robert J. Snyder, September 1, 1914 - July 13, 2007

My father-in-law, Bob Snyder, died in Huron Friday, July 13, and was buried on Tuesday, July 17, at Woodlawn Cemetery in Sioux Falls.

Here is Bob in August 1942 after landing in Australia. When the American troops first landed in the war zone, they were supplied with uniforms and personal weapons by the Australians.

When I think of the quintessential South Dakotan, at least of his generation, Bob fulfills the image. He was born in Kadoka on Sept. 1, 1914, graduated from White River High School in 1932, and became a linotype operator. His father was a banker and had to close his West River banks during the depression. The family moved to Sioux Falls where Bob's father opened a business and Bob continued his career in linotyping.

In 1939, Bob joined the 147th Artillery National Guard Unit. In 1941, the unit was activated after the attack on Pearl Harbor and was sent to the South Pacific. Bob was stationed in Australia for the duration of the war.
He was discharged in 1945 and graduated from Augustana College in 1950. He married Elizabeth Girton, who survives him, on January 20, 1954.
His four children are Dr. Lee Richmond Snyder, deceased, Polly Beth of Helena, Montana, Virginia of Aberdeen, and Jaime of Sioux Falls.

Among Bob's pursuits was music. He had a beautiful baritone voice and studied opera. He used his talent as a lay minister and lector in the Episcopal church. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Shriners.

He worked as a counselor for the South Dakota Vocational Rehabilitation department and after his retirement taught and worked at the Northwestern College of Commerce, which was owned and operated by his wife, Bette.

Bob had been treated for colon cancer. About two weeks before his death, Bob was taken to the hospital where it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver and lungs. His children and grandchildren came to see him. My own children, Leslie and David, and their cousin Shaun came from Denver and joined their little sister, Andrian, to say goodbye to their grandfather and be present for the last rites, administered by Father George Parmeter. Bob was weary of the physical oppressions of age and was ready to go.

Bob and I were very close friends. We listened to his extensive music collection, classical, jazz, and pop, together, went to concerts and other events together, and traveled to family gatherings together. Bob had knee replacements which did not work out too well, so for the last decade or so, he used a wheelchair for mobility. We spent a great deal of time together as I drove Bob and Bette to medical and other appointments during which time Bob regaled us with stories of growing up in South Dakota as the son of a pioneer and settler.

Bob was a lifelong Republican. However, in recent years he became an active supporter of Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson. His allegiance to the Republican Party was challenged by the attitudes and tactics of national and state elected officials. While we identified with different parties, our experiences ran parallel. I left the Republican party in Illinois when the Lincoln Republicans were displaced by those who were more interested in corporate totalitarianism than in providing fair and equal opportunities to all citizens. Bob felt the same way about what happened in South Dakota.

Since the invasion of Iraq, we had many discussions about that war and shared a sense of shame over the betrayal and waste of our troops in a war that has no moral or intellectual justification. Our soldiering was done under a different kind of command.

Bob was a man without rancor who possessed a dry wit that caused smiles and good feelings among all those he met. His death at age 92 was merciful, but his legacy of good will, good humour, and devotion to his country and his church live on as standards of what it is to be a good citizen. He was a damned fine soldier. I am grateful for having known him.

Here is a recent picture of Bob at Grace Episocopal Church in Huron when he gave a reading of the humorous poetry he has written over the years.

Below is a picture of an emplacement of Bob's Army unit during World War II. Bob was a radio operator, and the revetment covered with with camouflage was a combination radio shack and gun emplacement.

1 comment:

RealFakeNews said...


He sounds like a great man, like most of these fellows were who grew up in the crucible of the Depression and WWII. They don't make men like this any more and it's a shame.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States