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Breast cancer claims former delegate

June 13, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

MIDDLETOWN, Md. -- Louise Virginia Snodgrass, who represented parts of Frederick and Washington counties in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1995 through 2003, died Friday at the age of 66 after a long battle with breast cancer.

Friends and fellow legislators remembered her Saturday as a grass-roots-oriented public servant who went to great lengths to solve problems for her constituents and braved breast cancer with positivity and grace.

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr., an independent who represents parts of Frederick and Washington counties and a longtime colleague and friend of Snodgrass, said he liked to describe her as "having a heart as big as the Middletown Valley."

"And it is true," Weldon said. "There was nothing she wouldn't do for somebody, whether it was a Social Security issue or a Medicaid issue. She was really just incredible."

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Snodgrass worked for more than 25 years in the dental field and became interested in politics after holding leadership roles in the Maryland Dental Assistants Association, said her daughter, Anne Snodgrass.

She was the first female burgess of Middletown, an office similar to that of mayor, from 1988 until 1994, when she was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates for District 3.

As a delegate, Snodgrass was focused on issues that affect municipal government in Maryland and was recognized several times by the Maryland Municipal League as its most effective advocate in Annapolis, Weldon said.

Weldon won his seat in the House of Delegates in 2002, the same year Snodgrass lost hers, but the two did not run against each other. Election districts were redrawn that year, putting Snodgrass into a new district where three popular Republicans vied for two seats, Weldon said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who served with Snodgrass on the Commerce and Government Matters Committee, said he looked to her as a role model for constituent service.

"She really always had her finger on the pulse of what the community believed," Shank said.

Weldon said Snodgrass sought to simplify some of the red tape in Annapolis.

"She had this unique ability to resolve people's problems really quickly and efficiently, and I think when she ran for the state (House of Delegates), she was frustrated that it wasn't that easy, now that she was dealing with state bureaucracy," Weldon said.

Snodgrass thought it was unfair residents of municipalities should be taxed by both the county and the municipality for the same services, so she put in a bill that requires the Frederick County Commissioners to meet yearly with mayors to negotiate a tax setoff for the duplicate services, Weldon said.

She also was a key player, along with Shank and state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, in pursuing the state battlefield designation for South Mountain. While advocating for that bill, Snodgrass wore a Civil War costume to a bond hearing, Weldon said.

"I don't think any of the guys who claim credit for it were willing to make that kind of commitment," he said.

Shortly after Snodgrass was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995, she was asked to testify against a push by insurance companies to send patients home from hospitals just 24 hours after having mastectomies, her daughter said.

After that, Snodgrass became an advocate for breast cancer awareness and served as a spokeswoman for Y-Me of the Cumberland Valley, a breast-cancer awareness group.

Snodgrass loved public service and was proud of her accomplishments, Weldon said.

One year, at the Maryland Municipal League's annual conference, the organization presented her with a white-and-burgundy sash that said "Miss MML" in sequin letters, he said.

"I think they gave it to her as kind of a joke, but I have to tell you she wore that thing and displayed it as a badge of honor and had it hanging on her door."

He said other politicians hated to walk in the Middletown Heritage Days parade because Snodgrass always received the most applause. She wore bright outfits and big hats and had a smile that could fill a room, he said.

After leaving the House of Delegates in 2003, Snodgrass and her husband, Frank, retired in Dover, Del., where they had been living ever since, Anne Snodgrass said.

While she lived in Maryland, Weldon said he grew close to Snodgrass and her husband when they went out to dinner regularly with several other couples.

"She treated my wife and me incredibly graciously," Weldon said. "I'll never forget her."

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