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Belva Snyder

December 08, 2012|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Belva Snyder poses for this photo taken when she was 84.
Submitted photo

Belva Snyder had many and varied passions — her four children, politics, community involvement, fashion and driving — to name a few.

“Politics were her second life outside of her children,” oldest child Sandra Turtle said.

Andrea Clopper of Hagerstown, Belva’s middle daughter, believes her mother heard a Democratic speaker at a young age and liked what she heard so much that she devoted herself to promoting the Democratic Party.

“We were all Democrats,” Andrea said. “Growing up with her, you had to be a Democrat. If I voted otherwise, I didn’t tell her.”

Belva never missed voting, even though it took a lot of effort in her later years when she needed a wheelchair to get around. Andrea said in recent years, she and her mother voted for opposing candidates, essentially canceling out each other’s vote.

“We had political discussions,” Andrea said. “We just sort of agreed with her.”

Belva was known for her fundraising skills, whether for the Democratic Party or the local American Heart Association. When she planned fundraising political luncheons, she always invited the president of the United States and state and local politicians.

Although none of the presidents attended her luncheons, Belva had a file of political photos that had been sent to her with their regrets, including a signed one of her with then-President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We always knew our senators personally,” said Sandra, who lives near Philadelphia.

Belva knew the Clintons, and met Mike Miller, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Barbara Mikulski and others as a result.

“Mother loved all the Kennedys,” Andrea said.

Belva was born in Shenandoah, Va., and suffered her share of loss at an early age. A younger brother and sister died, the brother as a result of burns when a car exploded near him and the sister from a fever.

She was about 14 when she was sent to Hagerstown to live with an aunt and uncle after her mother got strep, which developed into scarlet fever and resulted in her death.

Andrea said she and Sandra were involved with their mother’s community projects, whether they wanted to or not. Belva would have them go door to door collecting money for the Washington County Heart Association, a cause that was personal to her since her father died of a heart attack.

“She was pretty quick to jump to any cause that would help people,” Andrea said.

There was a 10-year gap before son John was born, followed by daughter Jonnette Reuschling, who now lives in Charleston, S.C. There are eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

“What I remember most was how proud my mom was of her family,” Sandra said. “She had high expectations. She really wanted her kids to excel socially, academically and musically.”

Sandra said Belva was known for throwing huge children’s parties, including an egg hunt at City Park with 500 eggs and a golden egg for the two oldest daughters’ classes. She also hosted pre-prom parties when her children were in high school.

“She was just always there,” said Sandra, adding that Belva’s friendships with their school principals and teachers led to invitations to social events outside of school. 

Belva and her husband divorced when John was about 18, Andrea said.

“My father was never involved in any way. That was his loss,” Sandra said. “Mother prevailed. I think that’s an indicator of the strength of her personality.”

It was after the divorce that Belva moved into Andrea’s Calvert Terrace home, which they shared for 40 years.

“She was such a big part of my life,” Andrea said.

Belva’s love for fashion and shopping rubbed off on Sandra and Jonnette, who was a model in New York City, but not on her middle daughter, Andrea said.

Andrea remembers when it was just she and Sandra, her mother taking pride in dressing her two daughters well despite limited resources. Daily shopping trips to Goodwill and The Salvation Army, as well as deeply discounted clearance items from other stores, helped round out their wardrobes.

“She was one tremendous shopper,” Andrea said. “She bought only if it was on sale and paid cash or used layaway.”

Belva used her thriftiness for the benefit of others.

“She was very generous,” Andrea said. “She didn’t have a lot to be generous with. Back when I was young, my sister and I got one item plus our stockings (at Christmas), and we were thrilled with that.”

She remembers taking Christmas gifts to Belva’s sister’s family, with six children, even though they weren’t able to reciprocate. There also were gifts for their father’s family.

“For her to be able to get all these gifts, it took a lot of maneuvering,” Andrea said.

Belva had studied to be a dental assistant, but never worked in that field. She became a baby sitter, caring for up to seven children at one point, then was a caregiver into her 80s, Andrea said.

“She worked for as long as she could,” Andrea said. “She loved to be out doing something.”

Belva’s favorite mode of transportation was her Cadillac.

“She loved to drive. She was Adventure Woman,” Sandra said. “She drove her friends everywhere, and drove them across the United States frequently. She had no fear of taking off.”

Belva probably had driven to every state with family and friends, always as the driver, thinking nothing of driving 15 hours straight with only quick stops.

“She drove up until she could barely walk,” Andrea said.

Belva’s mother raised her on healthy eating, which continued to be important to Belva throughout her life. Andrea remembers her mother serving steamed kale and cabbage, envious of her friends’ families who would have frozen vegetables swimming in butter with their meals.

“She did like desserts, but wanted a well-balanced meal,” Andrea said. “There was no fast food on vacations.”

She also loved buffets and never left anything on her plate, feeding the leftovers to her animals.

Belva developed diabetes, and when she started falling a lot came the difficult decision of whether or not she could stay at home.

With Andrea working, it was decided about four years ago that a nursing home would provide the social contact Belva needed and peace of mind for the family.

“I struggled with whether she should be at home or in a nursing home,” Andrea said. “She was a real blessing in the nursing home, always smiling with positive things to say to the staff.”

“She was a fascinating woman, really,” Sandra said. “I’m sure we’ll all miss her dearly.”

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about Belva Snyder, who died Nov. 26 at the age of 94. Her obituary was published in the Nov. 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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