April 26, 1925 — June 16, 2019
The Rev. Eldon D. Snyder wanted to be a minister from childhood. But even more important than his work, first in Evangelical United Brethren churches and later United Methodist churches, he wanted to serve others.
He loved his final position, as pastor for visitation at Kenmore United Methodist Church, said his daughter, Sharon Allen. "He spent all his time visiting elderly and sick people," she said. "He wanted to be of service, he could never quit feeling like he had to do things for people. He had to have a purpose."
The Rev. Snyder died June 16, 2019, at the Weinberg Campus in Getzville, where he and his wife had lived for two weeks. Before that, they lived in the Town of Tonawanda.
His sermons were measured and calm, and throughout his life, he was dedicated to helping others in any way he could, his daughter said.
The Rev. Snyder was born April 26, 1925, in Ballston Lake, the son of Lillie Lemley Snyder. His single mother worked full-time as an inspector in a knitting mill; her mother, Elizabeth Lemley, moved into the household to care for Eldon and his older sister Helen.
He grew up in the Village of West Sand Lake.
In junior high, he and Virginia L. Oliver became sweethearts, said their daughter. "They were the prom king and queen, the drum majorette and the star basketball player," she said.
After graduating from Averill Park Central School in the Class of 1942, the Rev. Snyder enrolled in Albright College in Reading, Pa., for one year. Then, like many of his classmates, he suspended his education to serve his country.
He entered the U.S. Navy in August 1943. He served as a hospital corpsman in Bainbridge, Md., and was honorably discharged on March 17, 1946. "He didn't go overseas and he felt he wasn't a 'real veteran' because he didn't," said his daughter.
The Rev. Snyder returned to Albright College in 1946 and graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1949. In college, he was a member of Kappa Tau Chi, an honorary fraternity for pre-ministerial students.
In 1948, he received his first license to preach from the Evangelical United Brethren Church in Niagara Falls.
He graduated from the Evangelical School of Theology in Reading, Pa., in 1952, and was ordained into Christian ministry on June 13, 1952, in West Valley, N.Y. His first pastorate was in 1952 at Calvary Evangelical United Brethren Church in Mattydale, near Syracuse, where he served for five years.
He then moved to Grand Island Emmanual Evangelical United Brethren Church for five years, followed by three years in the Ebenezer, N.Y., Evangelical United Brethren Church.
On July 1, 1965, he was appointed to the Tonawanda Evangelical United Brethren Church, so he was in ministry there on April 23, 1968, when the Evangelical United Brethren Church joined with the Methodist Church to form the worldwide United Methodist Church.
Locally, Grace Methodist Church joined the Rev. Snyder's church in 1969 to form the Tonawanda United Methodist Church. The Rev. Snyder was appointed to serve the new congregation.
He retired from Tonawanda United Methodist Church in June 1988. The next month, he became pastor for visitation at Kenmore United Methodist Church, serving more than 22 years in that position. In June 2008, he became Pastor Emeritus at that church.
Despite all his achievements, the Rev. Snyder was a soft-spoken, modest man, his daughter said. "Take the humblest person you can imagine and then think even more humble than that," she said. "He would never say a bad word about anybody, and he never wanted to hurt anybody's feelings."
In the final five years of his life, his daughter said, he was troubled that he could no longer aid people as he once had.
When his daughter, a retired teacher, became active with the African Library Project, the Rev. Snyder was happy to assist, helping write notes and pack books being sent to African schools, she said. "That gave him a purpose and he was doing that with me up until the weeks before he died," Sharon Allen said.
Besides his daughter, the Rev. Snyder is survived by his wife of 71 years, Virginia Oliver Snyder; his son, Paul Snyder; five grandchildren, a great-grandchild and several nieces and nephews.
A celebration of the Rev. Snyder's life and ministry will begin at 11 a.m. June 29 in the Kenmore United Methodist Church, 32 Landers Road, Kenmore.