World War II veteran lived life to fullest

My friend, William J. Snyder, passed away last week. I read his obituary, filled with facts and times and places, but it didn’t reflect the man I came to know. Because he was a character, as people like to say, I’d like you to know a little bit more about him.

Bill was a cantankerous, opinionated, feisty 96-year-old veteran of World War II. He fought in the south Pacific and loved to tell the tales of his many close calls. He made no apologies for his dislike of the Japanese. There were other races and ethnic groups Bill didn’t care for; after all, he was a product of his era. But in truth, I never saw him look down on anyone who crossed his path. He was a gentleman to the ladies, and just one of the guys to the men.

Bill was a frequent visitor to Meeder’s Restaurant. While he could still drive, he’d laugh about racing some “young kid” down route 20 from North East, Pa. He hated to be passed on the road.

Luckily he gave up his license after a close call. After that he relied on friends to bring him into town. And friends he had! The “Breakfast Club” revolved around Bill. From a table for four to a table for 10 or 12. Over the years his circle grew until it filled most of the center tables.

Everybody knew Bill. Old combat vets would salute him, exchanging greetings of, “How’re ya doing, Sarge?” “You all right there, General?” “Thank you, Sir, for your service,” from the younger ones. Bill was proud of his country and of those who served.

He must have been around 92 when a friend of Bill’s took him on a hunting trip to British Columbia to shoot elk. We heard about the “one that got away” for a long time after. He may not have bagged any game, but it was a trip of a lifetime for Bill; one he never forgot.

Bill lost his beloved wife, Arlene, after 68 years marriage. He said he’d never marry again, and he didn’t. After some joke or prank was pulled at breakfast he’d often say, “Oh, I wish Mother (Arlene) was here to see this,” and he’d laugh. He spoke of her often, and the travels they shared. “I’ve been all over the world,” he’d say, “and I never met such nice people as there are here in Ripley.”

Bill could be infuriating in his very loud opinions, and yet, very endearing with memories of Arlene. He was always there, enjoying life, until a few weeks ago when he just didn’t feel up to coming for breakfast. We all knew he wouldn’t be with us much longer, but we all hoped we were wrong. God speed, Bill. We’ve lost a friend and a patriot. Give Arlene our love.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com