Snyder is Mt. Pleasant Rotary Club's 2012 Citizen of the Year
Richard A. Snyder sat in polite silence Sunday night as he was referred to by numerous names and titles.
Justification for each came with humorous, compelling and heartwarming stories delivered by many of those who know Snyder best.
From humanitarian to church leader, international traveler to teacher, historian to humble, loving family man, the monikers and stories in myriad ways reflected the many actions and deeds of Snyder, who most notably was called “Mt. Pleasant's favorite son” by his best friend, Jim Schmidt.
However, the designation which fit Snyder best that night was 2012 Citizen of the Year — a recognition bestowed on him by the Rotary Club of Mt. Pleasant during a ceremony at the Tadeusz Kosciuszko Club in the borough.
“I'm nearly speechless,” said Snyder, 78, to an audience of more than 90 Rotarians, community leaders, friends and family. “I do want to thank the Rotary Club for honoring me in such a way, but I think most of the people sitting in this room had something to do with me being chosen for this.”
Regardless, all the attendees seemed inclined to discuss were the many instances in which Snyder did something for them and his community.
“This is a man with a great love for his country, his church, his family, and a great love for Mt. Pleasant,” said Schmidt before presenting Snyder with a plaque from the club.
In February, the club's selection committee — chaired by treasurer Dale Walker — declared Snyder the recipient of the designation from a field of seven candidates.
“This evening, we will hear about how the lives of those in the Mt. Pleasant area have been touched by Richard,” said Tom Forsythe, president of the borough's Rotary Club.
Snyder is the first Rotarian to receive the honor since the club began carrying on the annual tradition started in 1969 by the Mt. Pleasant chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 868, which disbanded in 2009.
“You're the first Rotarian to be named citizen of the year under this new regime, so that is an honor,” said Walker, who along with fellow Rotarians George Wood, Doug Hauser and Mark DePalma were former members of the local Elks chapter who sought to carry on the tradition.
One by one, Snyder's friends and family stepped to the podium to speak of the ways in which he's made a difference.
“This is what makes Mt. Pleasant great, people like yourself and the people who work with you,” said borough Mayor Jerry Lucia, who credited Snyder with helping him and Jeff Landy in their efforts to co-found the Mt. Pleasant Glass & Ethnic Festival while Snyder served as president of the Laurel Highlands Chamber of Commerce in the mid-1980s.
“We're proud of you, we're proud of your family, God bless you, we love you, and it's a good thing you're part of town.”
In 1960, Snyder became, at age 25, what at that point was the youngest president in the history of the Mt. Pleasant Kiwanis Club.
“Growing up, I did not know that,” said Snyder's son, Rob Snyder, of Bel Air, Md., who attended with Snyder's grandson, Luke. “I never witnessed an event in which he accepted any award for anything he'd ever done.”
A local Rotarian since 1969, Snyder also served as that club's president from July 1983 to July 1984.
“Thank you for demonstrating your commitment to your fellow Rotary members,” Wood said.
Several recalled how 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. The church was again filled for Christmas Mass in 1976.
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.
He also traveled with the “Because We Care” mission group in 2006 to Louisiana to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.
“I hope to use the lessons you've taught me to service my own community,” said Snyder's stepson, Andrew Miedel of Scottdale, who attended with his wife, Karen.
In 1995, Snyder helped establish the Mt. Pleasant Area Historical Society, oversaw development of the Chestnut Log House and currently is directing renovation of the Overly Log House.
“I'm not sure Mt. Pleasant would have a historical society without Richard,” said Rick Meason, who was appointed the society's president in January.
Ellen Katter, manager of both Lifeline for Excela Health System and volunteer services at Excela Health Frick Hospital near the borough, pointed out Snyder's 25 years of volunteerism with the local facility.
“This award could not go to a better person,” Katter said. “I am very proud of you, Frick is proud of you and your fellow volunteers are proud of you.”
Snyder also was presented a plaques of recognition by Westmoreland County commissioners Chuck Anderson, Tyler Courtney and Ted Kopas; Jack Rutkowski, chairman of the Mt. Pleasant Township board of supervisors; and state Sen. Kim Ward, R-Hempfield, and state Reps. Mike Reese, R-Mt. Pleasant Township, and Deberah Kula, D-Westmoreland/Fayette.
Other family members who joined Snyder at the ceremony included wife Twila Snyder; sister Dolores Thomas of Hempfield; son Rick Snyder and wife, Elena, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; stepsons Ed Miedel and wife, May, of South Huntingdon, and Satch Miedel and wife, Carol, also of South Huntingdon; two stepdaughters — Dani White and husband, Dale, of Scottdale; and Wendy Sowinski and husband, Joe, also of Scottdale; grandsons Robert Miedel and girlfriend, Leah Landkrohn, and Christian Miedel and wife, Claire; granddaughters Megan Sowinski and her fiance, Chris Huhn, and Rikki Snyder; nephew Joe Green and wife, Sally, of Cranberry; and niece Sandy Markle and husband, John, of Mt. Pleasant.
A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.