Donna J. Snyder of Salamanca, who worked for more than 30 years as the Cattaraugus County correspondent for The Buffalo News, died Wednesday in Buffalo General Hospital after a short illness. She was 70.
She began her journalism career as Cattaraugus County bureau chief for the Buffalo Courier-Express and later served as county editor for the Salamanca Press before joining The News.
She was well known as a tenacious reporter of the courts and criminal-justice system as well as for her ability to report on government finance and political issues.
In April 2004, she entered a nursing home for an extended rehabilitation from illness but continued to cover stories through phone contacts and a laptop computer. In 2007, she returned to work from her home office, continuing on the job through last month.
Gov. George E. Pataki recognized her for her advocacy in securing the passage of the state's Operation Recognition Law with the late State Sen. Patricia McGee, allowing veterans of all U.S. wars since World War II who had not received a high school diploma to receive an honorary diploma from the high school they attended. When it became law on Sept. 5, 2001, her husband, Daniel T. Snyder, who was a Korean War veteran, was the first to receive such an honorary degree. He died in 2003.
In 2002, the Cattaraugus County Bar Association took the unusual step of giving her a special award for her reporting and for her efforts toward passage of the veterans law.
She was born in Salamanca, the daughter of the late Salamanca Common Council President Charles E. Hensel. She was a 1959 graduate of Salamanca Central High School and for many years served as treasurer of the family-owned commercial real estate business, Hensel Enterprises.
Active in community affairs, Mrs. Snyder served as president of the Salamanca Area Chamber of Commerce in 1995-97 and was chairwoman of the annual Falling Leaves Festival.
Angry that each year the male politicians from both parties in the county gathered at an Election Day luncheon with no women allowed, she organized the Woman Achievers Luncheon, an annual event in which women active in politics hold their own Election Day luncheon.
Mrs. Snyder was a member of the Cattaraugus County Arson Task Force and active in volunteer fire company activities, serving for many years as head of the Kill Buck Volunteer Fire Department's Ladies Auxiliary. For many years, she raised basset hound show dogs, winning numerous awards.
She is survived by a son, Donnald G. Hensel; a stepson, Richard Snyder; three stepdaughters, Denise Porter, Patricia Luna and Barbara Snyder; a brother, Rodney C. Hensel; and her close friend, Mark S. Williams.
A memorial service will be scheduled.