Richard A. Snyder is Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club's 2012 Citizen of the Year
The blizzard that engulfed the northeastern United States last weekend has Richard A. Snyder focused solely on the seemingly endless litany of strife facing the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“Those people have really gone through some traumatic months,” said Snyder, 78, of Mt. Pleasant.
In an effort to provide aid to those affected, Snyder will be spending much of Feb. 23 in the kitchen of the Mt. Pleasant United Methodist “Town Clock” Church, where he will be cooking tomato sauce to be served during a spaghetti dinner fundraiser to be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on that date.
The dinner's proceeds will finance a trip by the “Because We Care” mission group on March 3 to deliver aid to Sandy victims in southern New Jersey.
“The funds will help defray traveling expenses and necessary supplies,” Snyder said. “I wish I could go myself to help, but I'm doing what I can back here.”
That deed represents just the latest chapter in Snyder's 50-year legacy of local volunteerism.
“When I stop and think of all the involvement I've had, it's been a roller coaster ride, but it's been enjoyable,” Snyder said.
Such enduring dedication to Mt. Pleasant, its surrounding areas and beyond recently led to Snyder's selection as the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant's 2012 Citizen of the Year.
“It was a very big surprise to me to be chosen to be that,” Snyder said. “Their vote of confidence in me was overwhelming.”
During a meeting held Feb. 5, the club's selection committee spent sparse time declaring Snyder the recipient of the designation from a field of seven candidates.
“Dick was a unanimous choice, number one, which is exceptional,” said Dale Walker, the club's treasurer and chairman of the selection committee. “That means everyone agreed the first time around.”
With his selection, Snyder became the first Rotarian tabbed for the honor since the club began carrying on the annual tradition started by the Mt. Pleasant chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 868.
The Mt. Pleasant Elks disbanded in 2009.
Walker, along with fellow Rotarians George Wood, Doug Hauser and Mark DePalma, were former members of the local Elks chapter who wanted to carry on the annual tradition.
“There are times when someone does something so exceptional for a year or two that they stand out,” said Walker, 63, of Mt. Pleasant. “In Dick's case, he's been doing what he's been doing for so long ... he is a deserving person.”
In 1960, Snyder became, at age 25, what at that point was the youngest president in the history of the Mt. Pleasant Kiwanis Club.
In 1975, Walker joined that club and met Snyder.
“I've known him 37 years and, in general, he's always been a gentleman about things, which makes him a lot easier to work with,” Walker said.
A local Rotarian since 1969, Snyder also served as that club's president from July 1983 to July 1984.
“The Rotary Club's motto is ‘service above self.' I've kind of tried to live by that,” he said.
In 1990, fellow Rotarian Jim Schmidt asked Snyder to help him coordinate Rotary Club International's District Conference held at Cheat Lake, W.Va.
“He's probably the best friend I've ever had,” said Schmidt, 73, of Norvelt.
Snyder also served as chairman of the rebuilding committee for the Trinity United Methodist Church in Scottdale after it was destroyed by fire in 1974.
“We were able to get back in it right before Christmas in 1976. It was a glorious time for our church,” said Snyder, who today is vice chairman of the church's board of trustees.
In 2001 and 2002, Snyder was the church's representative with the United Methodist Conference during two missions to Syktyvkar, the capital city of Russia's Komi Republic, where he helped conduct Vacation Bible Schools.
“There were probably 150 children. It was a summer camp for children from broken families,” Snyder said. “It was a different world, but those youngsters were fantastic.”
He also traveled with the “Because We Care” mission group in 2006 to Louisiana to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Back home, Snyder helped establish the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society in 1995.
“I think I'm the only active charter member,” said Snyder, who today serves as the society's president.
One of the society's larger-scale projects kicked off Feb. 7, 2003, with the year-long celebration of the 175th anniversary of Mt. Pleasant Borough's incorporation.
Borough Mayor Jerry Lucia and Snyder co-chaired the event's organizational committee.
“When I became mayor 28 years ago, Richard was president of the (Laurel Highlands) Chamber of Commerce. We formed a good working relationship with him at that point, and we've carried it through,” said Lucia, 67.
In 2005, Snyder and the society dismantled and rebuilt the Chestnut Log House along Washington Street.
“We managed to have 80 percent of it completed by the (Mt. Pleasant Area Glass & Ethnic) festival in 2007. It was mostly completed in 2009,” Snyder said.
The Snyder-led society also acquired a log house from the Overly family of Armbrust for $1 on Dec. 31, 2007. It now rests beside the Chestnut Log House.
The project to restore the house has required sizable donations and calls for considerably more, but Snyder said it will all be worth it in the long run.
“I think the society is probably going to get that project completed by this summer if enough donations come in,” said Tom Forsythe, current president of the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant. “If you compare Mr. Snyder to anybody else, with his Rotary membership aside, I would certainly think he should stand out among everybody when it comes to volunteer service.”
Snyder said he is proud to have lived a life of service.
“It's been a happy time. I've been very fortunate, and life has been good to me,” he said.
A banquet will be held at a to-be-determined time, date and location where Snyder will be formally presented with the award, Walker said.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.