BARBERTON — Eugene W. Snyder, 93, ended an exceptionally well-lived life on Sunday, March 20, 2022. He passed away peacefully at his home, hand-in-hand with Fran, his wife of nearly 50 years, and surrounded by the family members. He will always be remembered as a beloved husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and uncle. He was a true friend to many, always ready to listen. He was an excellent mentor and advisor to many others, a source of sound advice that was offered but never pushed.
Known as Gene to his friends and colleagues, he was Mr. Snyder or coach for thousands of elementary, junior high and high school students. His career in education spanned seven decades, including as a physical education and classroom teacher, elementary and secondary school principal, and as an administrator and superintendent. Gene was short in stature, but a commanding presence in any situation, and always fashionably dressed and groomed to perfection. Basically, Gene was an accomplished educator. No lesson or task was too small not to be done correctly, or as well as possible. He truly believed in the philosophy of “practice makes perfect”. If doing 10 reps was the best way to learn a skill, then doing 20 was better. But 30 was probably the best. He taught by “leading and doing,” not just speaking.
Eugene William Snyder was born in the “Old” Barberton Hospital on September 17, 1928. The second of Frank and Audrey Snyder’s four children, he was raised on the family farm near Manchester, Ohio. He learned early on the value of hard work, a love of animals and the beauty of nature, and the satisfaction of a job well done. These early lessons included taking care of an old coal mine pony named Dick and Betty, her own pony. He grew strong bales of hay and threshed grain, cleaned barns and animal pens, shucked corn, hoeed long garden rows, and milked Lady Star, the family cow.
Gene attended high school in Manchester, where he played many sports, playing football and basketball. He was president of the class of 1946, the school’s third class. He then studied at Kent State University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1949. He would later return to KSU to earn a Masters of Education in 1954.
Gene’s long career as a professional educator began in 1949. He was hired as a doctor
education teacher, with coaching duties, at Rose Primary School in Barberton. However, his second year as a teacher was cut short by the Korean War. He was drafted into the Army in January 1951. Posted to the Corps of Engineers, he served in Korea and Japan. While abroad, he honed his teaching skills, working as part of a unit that taught reading to less fortunate GIs. Gene’s eldest daughter, Patreece, was born while he was in Japan. He wouldn’t meet her until she got home and she was 18 months old. He was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant, then returned to work in the classroom at Rose School.
During his years as an elementary and high school coach, Gene was the “first coach” of several Barberton athletes who became more famous, including Dave Cooper, Ken and John Mackovic, Don Kotnik and Marco Burnette. He began his career as an administrator in 1957, when he was appointed headmaster of the Rose School in 1957. In 1958 the school was renamed Santrock in honor of Nora Santrock, a longtime headmistress of school and Gene’s mentor. He was principal for three years at Highland Junior High before moving to an assistant superintendent position for Barberton Public Schools. In 1971, Gene began a 10-year term as Superintendent of Coventry Local Schools in Summit County. He “retired” in 1981, having accumulated 32 years of service as an educator. He and Fran then moved to Naples, Florida in search of new adventures.
As Gene told the story, he spent a year as a “beach bum”, before returning to work as a sales representative for the Neff Construction Company. But the siren call from the world of education was too intense. After six years in the business world, his love for education drew him to schools. Gene “didn’t retire” and went to work as an administration specialist for the Collier County School District in South Florida. Over the next 10 years, he coordinated adult education, guidance, and dropout prevention programs for schools in Collier County. He also served as principal and acting principal of several new elementary schools in the fast-growing region. Gene “retired” again in 2002, with a resume that included 42 years as an educator.
New adventures were on the way. Gene and Fran became “halfbacks,” moving north to Westminster, South Carolina, where they lived an active but relaxed 11 years. They traveled across North America and Europe, including a special trip to the Holy Land. But the lure of “home” was strong. Whatever the weather, they decided to go back to their roots and moved back to Barberton to be closer to their family, especially six great-grandchildren. But their South Carolina home sold faster than expected. They returned to Ohio greeted by a freezing blizzard in January. Anyway, the circle was complete: from Ohio to Florida, from South Carolina to Ohio. It only took 34 years!
Gene was an avid reader, a lover of good food and drink, and an accomplished gardener in any habitat he called home. He was an active member and elder of many religious congregations during his life, most recently at Mogadore United Methodist, where Fran is the piano player. Since 1960, Gene had been an active member of Kiwanis International, contributing his time and skills to Barberton Noon-Day Clubs, Portage Lakes, Naples-on-the-Gulf (where he was Past President) and Magic City Clubs.
Gene was predeceased by his parents and by sisters Phyllis (Schultz), Joanne (Auman) and brother Bruce. He is survived by Frances (Herrington), his beloved wife; daughters Patreece (Dennis) Welser, Susan Hankla and Laurie (Conrad) Storad. Gene will be sadly missed by his 10 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and will forever be in the hearts of his family members and many wonderful friends living near and far across the country.
A celebration of Gene’s life well lived will be held Saturday, April 16, 2022 at Mogadore United Methodist Church, 3828 Mogadore Road, Mogadore, Ohio 44260. Service at 11 a.m. For those wishing to express their condolences in person, the family will receive guests at the church at 10 a.m. In honor of Gene’s memory, in lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to the Mogadore United Methodist Church Memorial Fund, or the Magic City Kiwanis/Esther Ryan Endowment Shoe Fund, in care of the Barberton Community Foundation. A private ceremony will be held at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery. The Snyder family also gives special thanks to the nurses at Summa Barberton Hospital, 1 East, and professional caregivers working for Crossroads Hospice. The thoughtful and loving care you gave Gene will always be appreciated.
A live stream of the service can be viewed on the United Methodist Church of Mogadore’s YouTube page.
Posted on April 08, 2022
Posted in Akron Beacon Journal