William Theodore Snyder
Irene (Margurete) Tonks Snyder
Indiana - Illinois - New Jersey
William Theodore Snyder (Deelsnyder/Deelsnijder) Remembrances
My lovely wife, Kathy, and I went to the National Symphony on the Friday after Dad died. It was a memorable experience. During the concert and the conductor’s discussion that accompanied this wonderful evening of Brahms, I had an inspiration that I felt was worth sharing. It has to do with a series of motifs that when blended together really make up all our lives. We are a series of motifs acted out through different stages of our lives. Here are ones I picked for Dad. They blend together beautifully. - (Written by Harvey Snyder)
The Good Earth
Dad wanted to be known as a farm boy made good. “Tell them I was a farmer. Be su re to tell them that.” was one of his constant requests. I will leave the story of h ow he left the Illinois farm and went to Chicago to one of my brothers, but he did so only after unsuccessful attempts to get a teaching position in local schools (“Yo u are just too young.” was their response.) In Chicago, he interviewed for a job with Western Electric dressed in an ill-fitting suit borrowed from a Phi Gam fraternity brother from Knox College in Galesburg. Western Electric hired him only with the understanding that with his first pay checks he would save for a new suit.
So we need to step back. When Dad was nearly 12 his mother died.
Because his father could not care for all the 5 children, they went to live with aunts and uncles. Dad, whose real last name was Deelsnijder, went to live on the farm with Uncle Bill, whom I remember quite well. Uncle Bill had already changed his name to the more common “Snyder.”
(William's room was a back bedroom on the 2nd floor, with no heat of
course. Most 2nd floors at that time were not heated).
The farm never left Dad. As all in the family know, when Mom and Dad moved to 45 Rowan Road in Summit, he asked for and received permission to cultivate the property across the street from their small house. Dad hand-turned the soil in that field. It must have been close to 1/8th of an acre. It was war time, and he was going to make sure we had enough to eat. Mom was a great canner. The kitchen was always full of jars and good smells.
From 45 Rowan Road we moved to “36.” That, of course was 36 Beekman Terrace in Summit. That property was, and continued to be, Dad’s and Mom’s love and joy. The garden was at the bottom of the hill, along Springfield Av enue. Each spring, Dad would take the Husky garden tractor over to the Bennetts (next door) to get manure. The Bennetts kept horses. It was spread over the garden before tilling. What a relief it was to have a plow come to turn the soil.
I can recall one day when Dad lost control of the tractor…I don’ t think it had any manure in it at the time…as he was going down the steep hill at the back of “36.” You see, if you pulled the levers, the tractor clutch disengaged. There were no brakes!!! Well, how he kept control of that tractor on the trip down the hill from top to bottom I just don’t know. I can still see him holding o n for dear life.
Anyway, the garden, the flowering trees, the birds, the bees (yes we had two bee hives), the grass…anything that grew…was Dad’s domain. He alw ays knew what to do with things of nature but never failed to seek advice from professionals when he needed it--whether that was the NJ State Beekeeper who appeared at the door one snowy evening or someone from the city to shoot squirrels that were getting into the house.
Dad planned our extensive garden, rotating crops annually. We almost always had at least 125 tomato plants, mostly Rutgers variety. There were, of course, corn, cabbage, lettuce, beets, radishes, beans, eggplant, pumpkins, and other vegetables. We also had productive trees--apple, peach, crab apple, and cherry for the birds. As young entrepreneurs, we boys were encouraged to sell surplus vegetables at our ‘stan d’ on Springfield Avenue. It really wasn’t a stand, but an umbrella and a ca rd table. I still have the scale that measured out tomatoes that cost $.10 a pound, as I recall. The price never changed.
We had great customers and often sold out. I recall one day going up the hill to find a cabbage for a customer. It was in the fridge, and I thought it was from the garden. Mom told me that night that she had brought it for our dinner.
There was a transition in store as Dad tried to figure out how to finance a college education for 4 boys. He came up with a horticulturist’s idea. I n the late 1950’s a large part of the garden was turned into a nursery…Sny der Brothers Nursery. I still have the bankbook. Fortunately we didn’t have to re ly on the nursery for college funds. As I recall, we planted about 500 trees and shrubs in one of the worst drought years in memory. Many died, but we did make enough over the years to just break even on the investment. I could go on and on about 36.
A second motif would be heritage. I think it is pretty clear that throughout our formative years Dad tried to instill in us certain values: love of family, thrift, hard work, education, ethical business dealings. His roots were deep. Is there anyone here who didn’t know Dad was Dutch? He was very, very proud of his heritage. There is no que stion of that. When he and Mom came to Germany to visit me, we took a memorable trip to Holland where we drove to the small town of Baflo in Friesland, northern Holland, where his grandfather lived. It’s not too far from the Zuider Zee.
It was early summer. Picture, if you will, a small Dutch Reformed church yard with the tiered, red brick houses lining one side of the square. You are standing on the church steps. On the right hand side about 30 yards away are eight or ten of these small houses. Large elm trees grew in the plain, unfenced cemetery directly in front of you. Typically unostentatious, there are no standing gravestones, just stones on the ground.
It was dusk, and we were looking at names on the embedded stones, searching for something that said “Deelsnijder.” You can just imagine what w e must have looked like—heads down, bending over the ground. The warm glow of l ights shown from the windows of the homes, and an occasional head popped out of a door or window. They certainly must have been wondering who these curious people were in their town, a place not at all known as a tourist attraction.
After about ten minutes, as the light faded a bit more, little boys and girls—probably no more than ten years old—came out of the houses and wal ked ever so slowly nearer to us on the church steps. After a bit of chattering among themselves, one of the young boys asked Dad what we were doing. Dad’s response was a shock, for in his best Dutch that he probably had not spoken in 25 or 30 years, he responded that his grandfather had grown up in Baflo, and we were looking for his gravestone. The response in Dutch delighted the children, some of whom went scampering off to tell their parents, who, undoubtedly, had sent them to find out who we were. He valued his heritage greatly.
Dad tried in his own way to repay the Summit community. Dad and Mom lived in Summit for about 40 years. Much of his volunteer energy was spent with the Central Church, YMCA, Boy Scouts, PTA, school district committees, and the Summit Historical Society. He served on the board of trustees of the United Campaign when it was just a small enterprise. And when Dad believed in a cause, he stood firmly. In the early 1950’s he took a stand with Al Devanney, the executive director of the YMCA, that led to the combining of the predominantly African-American Lincoln “Y” located over toward Railroad Aven ue with the Central Y, less than a block away. We did not need segregated Ys in Summit.
When the Lackawanna Railroad was seeking to increase service, and the unions were against it because they feared loss of union membership, Dad took a stand that led to a threat on his life. I watched as his face paled when he took a threatening phone call after a letter of his was published in the Newark News in support of the railroad. He never did like unions. (I don’t think brother Don dared to mention t o him that he is a union member.)
Dad also supported local businesses as an investor and a consultant. Among the friends he developed through these connections were Webster Van Winkle, (Van Winkle Corporation), Ken Merkle (the Nameplate Company), and others.
His church was so important to him. I’ll tell you a related story that has to do with music here in the church and at home. Dad and I and I think a couple of other brothers were standing to sing a hymn…right over there under that window that I will mention in a moment. Dad’s mother sang and played the organ, but Dad coul d not sing a note. He reminded me recently that one time when I was small, he was really squawking away…way off key. I turned to him and simply said, “Dad, don’t try so hard.”
While he didn’t play the organ, he did play the piano…well at least one song that would waken any Saturday morning loafers. That song was particularly for Mom. It was “You Are My Sunshine.”
Thank you to Dave Woodbury for being a friend and being there when we could not be, and thanks to the Braunworths and Pete Wood. He had so many friends here who never forgot Mom and Dad and ministered to them throughout their lives, especially while they were at Fellowship Village. The Church was almost like a second calling for him as he changed responsibilities from deacon to elder. He used to say that the only thing he couldn’t do is to marry us. His service to the church extended for all the years that I can recall. I think he felt his crowning achievement was the stained glass window here. There is, of course, more to this story. He felt that God had told him to tell the Old Testament stories in three windows. He conceived of and oversaw the installation of the first window when he was 95. He completed the design for the second window and initial sketches for the third. The second window was to depict the story of Noah’s Arc. Noah, it seems, went aground for a while in committee because of a fl aw in construction. But this was set aright. We, his four sons and their spouses, have committed ourselves to doing everything we can to complete this window. The third window he had in mind was for the 23rd Psalm, his favorite. He has initial sketches for this but nothing more.
Values: Thrift, Industry, Honesty, and Loyalty
I already told you he graduated from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. How Dad ever chose Chemistry as a major is a mystery. What I didn’t tell you was that he was a night clerk in a hotel in Galesburg. He told us that he lost that job when he wouldn’ t let individuals of, as he called them, ‘less than desirable character’ rent a room for the night.
We all have silly stories we could tell about our upbringing. It’ s interesting how the stories, just like a symphony are intertwined to create a story of life. Here’s a story about mice. Mice often are part of the lore of our home a t “36 Beekman” and the “39 Sussex.” At 36, we were paid $.10 fo r each mouse we caught. This was, believe it or not, connected to the legacy of dimes given out by John D. Rockefeller, whom he admired greatly. At 36 in the winter, it was almost certain that we could make $.20 or $.30 over a weekend. (At 39 Sussex, we had mice in the garage. We had set a couple of traps, but one of the mice that we didn’t catch jumped in to Mom’s newly prepared (but uncovered) vegetable soup that was si tting in the garage to cool. The mouse looked very satisfied but when we found it, it looked like it had been there for a day or two, so we didn’t bother to resuscitate . You know, DNR. No, we didn’t serve the soup.) Speaking of dimes, we also got $. 10 or $.15 for polishing shoes. While we all had a so-called “allowance,” I can’t even remember collecting it once. I think it was something like $.25 per week. Maybe someone can confirm that.
I would be remiss not to continue a bit with at least one story about the Rockefellers. Dad was hired as a bookkeeper and became Comptroller at Rockefeller Center, Inc. He has many wonderful stories, and he had a wonderful 38 year working relationship with the Rockefeller family. That continued as a friendly relationship with David Rockefeller to the day Dad died. The relationship continues, of course, through Bob.
One evening two years ago, when I noticed at The George Washington University, where I’ve worked for 34 years, that Dr. David Rockefeller was to comme nt on his most recent book, I asked if I could sit in on the interview and discussion. There was quite a nice size audience. At the end of the program we were given an opportunity to visit briefly with Dr. Rockefeller and to purchase his book. When it was my turn, I asked Dr. Rockefeller if he would please sign a copy for Dad. He looked up at me and said right away, “Oh, you must be Bill’s son. I’ll be happy to.” One of his staff had already alerted him. You can’t even begin to imagine the re spect that Dad had for the Rockefeller family.
The move to Fellowship Village, where Mom and Dad were to spend their last years, was a natural. It was perfect…except for the fact that it was 4 hour s from Virginia for us. It was right next to the English Farm, where we used to come to get eggs and broilers for our 4th of July barbeque over maple coals. It was within easy driving distance of Summit and Murray Hill. And surprise after surprise greeted Mom and Dad at Fellowship Village as some of their Summit friends found a place at the Village for themselves as well.
So, if I were to put into just a few words what Dad’s life means, those words might be industry, integrity, ideals, and inspiration. He loved his God. He loved his family. Surely he lived an imperfect life, as we all do. Long ago, he sought forgiveness for his shortcomings and was certain of that forgiveness through Jesus Christ. As Morris Massey, a contemporary industrial psychologist says, “We are wh at we were when….” His reality was a farm boy who had a wonderful, 73 year m arriage, had a great career, and a loving family. His reality was a life lived in a context of the depression, near poverty, and then fulfillment because of his choices in life, the love of his wife, his children, his family, and his friends.
So Brahms has nothing on Dad or any of us for that matter. It’s just that Brahms expressed his life in his music. Dad expressed his life in his living, just as we all do, if we are alert enough to capture it that way in our minds. Dad’ s was rich heritage, and one that I hope we can pass on to our own children.
It was raining fiercely as we took Dad to celebrate his 99th birthday at
a restaurant in Basking Ridge. As I reflect on it now, metaphorically, it seemed as if
Hemingway had written the script. At the conclusion of dinner, Dad shook his head slowly
and said in a soft voice expressing amazement - "99, 99"
A life well lived.
Contributed by Harvey Snyder
Written by his father William Theodore Snyder
"One generation passeth away, and another cometh, but the earth abi deth forever." The Old Testament is replete with accounts of generations. Of particular note is the House of David and the lineage of some of the tribes of Israel and Judah. It has been written that the Dutch fulfill an ancient prophecy pertaining to one of the so-called last ten tribes of the House of Israel: "Zebulun's descendants were to dwel l at the haven of the sea" Gen. 49-13.
More recently we have been introduced to "Roots" and to heraldr y. We are encouraged to seek knowledge of our ancestors. With knowledge of our past, we hope we can better understand the present.
It was not until 1967 when the Navy sent our son, Harvey, to Munich, Germany that I became interested in our ancestors. I knew that my father was born in Baflo, The Netherlands, and that my mother was born in Holland, Michigan.
When we finally decided to visit Harvey in 1968, I spoke to a dutchman in the architectural department in Rockefeller Center. "Write a letter to the Gemeente Huis in Baflo," he said. So with a letter dated 19 Juli 1968 from Baflo, the mist of ancestry began to rise. Correspondence to date has established the following: My great, great, great paternal grandfather was Care1s Delschneider. The archives in Friesland record him as a school teacher in Wier since 1763, and that he died there in 1803. The archivist reports that the name, Delschneider, is "obviously not of friesian origin", and that the name sounds German. Carels is reported to have moved "from Cornjum to Wier with church attest (Certificate of Church Affiliation) August 12, 1764; his wife from Leeuwarden to Wier May 13, 1766". He was married to Grietje Konings in Wier November 20, 1763. C arel and Grietje had nine children baptized in Wier.
My great, great paternal grandfather, Martinus Carels Delsnijder, was born in Wier June 26, 1767 and died in Groningen on September 30, 1833. He was a shopkeeper in Wier, province of Friesland. He was married to Zijke Theunis Hager in Wier on July 8, 1791.
My great paternal grandfather, Karel Martinus Deelsnijder, a farmhand, was married at 18 years of age to Grietje Jakobs Huizinga, who was then 25 years old. They were married 6 January, 1816 in Baflo. He died in Rasquert 25 November, 1854 at 56 years of age.
My great grandmother, Grietje Jakobs Huizinga, was born in Den Andel 19 November, 1790, the daughter of Jacob Jan Huizinga and Trijntje Jan ter Lys, laborers, living in Den Andel. She died 15 December, 1850 at 60 years of age in Rasquert.
My grandfather, Willem Deelsnijder, was born 15 February, 1834 in Baflo, became a member of the Dutch Reformed Church, and was married to Derkje Volk. He was a master of an inland waterway ship or barge. He died 23 February, 1885 and according to records in the Gemeente Huis was buried in the old section of the cemetery in Baflo. The burial place is not known.
My grandmother, Derkje Valk, was born 15 July, 1831 in Baflo and died 31 May 1869 in Baflo. She is also buried in the old section of the cemetery in Baflo. Her burial place is also unknown. Derkje Valk was the daughter of Kornelis Jacob Valk, a laborer and Asltjen Jans Wilkens, who were married on 4 June, 1830 in Baflo.
My maternal great, grandfather, Kornelius Jacob Valk, was born in Warfum, married at 28 years of age to Tryntje Kornelis. He was a tailor and she a dressmaker. He died in Ben Andel 19 December, 1836 at 35 years of age.
My other great great grandmother, Aaltje Jan Wilkens, was born in Del Andel in 1796. She was the daughter of Jan Wilkens and Derkje Dykema. She was a day laborer by occupation and married Kornelius Jacob Valk when she was 36 years of age. Her husband was then 28 years of age. She died in Den Andel on 20 June, 1837 at 41 years of age.
The names of Wilkens, Dykema and Valk were among those I came to know when I went to live on the farm near Morrison, Illinois in 1919. There were several families by those names.
Grandfather Deelsnyder and Derkje Valk had five children, Carels (Carl), Grietje (Grace), Aaltjen (Alice), Kornelius (Cornelius) and Jacobus (Jacob). The only records I have concern Carel and my father, Cornelius. Uncle Carl was born 5 February, 1858 and died 27 July, 1936, in Morrison, Illinois. My father was born 4 December, 1865 in Baflo and died 19 November, 1934 in Morrison, Illinois.
However, it will be noted that my grandmother, Derkje Valk, died in 1869 at 38 years of age. My father, Cornelius, born in 1865, was then four years of age. My cousin Bill, eldest son of my father's brother, Carl, made a trip to Holland in the 1930's with a friend, Bernie Vos. Bill told me that Grandfather Delsnijder took his deceased wife's sister, a Mrs. Luntenge, as his common law wife. It appears she had been deserted by her husband and was left with three children. A girl, Dorothy, was born to this couple in the 1870's. She never married and died during World War I.
Before going on to my father and his history, it should be noted that Uncle Carl married Cornelia Wilstra in Holland. Aaltjen married John Maring in Holland. Grietje married Hubert Londo in Holland. My father and Uncle Jacobus came here unmarried. The records at the Whiteside County Court House in Morrison, Illinois show the following dates of naturallzation:
Carl Deelsnyder October 24, 1892 - Vol. 614, Pg 173
Cornellus Deelsnyder October 29, 1894 - Vol. 614, pg 196
John Maring October 26, 1896 - Vol.614, Pg 252
Jacob Deelsnyder March 30, 1896 - Vol. 614, Pg 222
Hubert Londo October 15, 1900 - Vol. 3, Pg 194
Since information about my mother is sketchy, I will insert it here. Henrietta Grace Homkes was born in Holland, Michigan, 16 August, 1876, the daughter of Bartlett Homkes and Jantje Heetebry. Henrietta married my father 12 May, 1905 and died 3 January, 1918 in Sully, Iowa. Her father, Bartlett Homkes, was born 18 September, 1848 in the Netherlands, married Jantje Heetebry 21 February, 1873 and died 13 January, 188l. Jantje Heetebry was born 4 June, 1848, and preceded her husband in death on 30 September, 1880.
Since the foregoing paragraph was written, a second cousin living in Michigan has been in touch with a Homkes in Deventer, the Netherlands. I have also had some correspondence with him, sending him pictures of two uncles, Bert and Dick, and my mother. I also sent pictures of my father and mother's wedding and, of course, our family. I have some informal pictures of the Homkes family in The Netherlands, two aunts in their 80's and of him and his family on a "holiday". He has put all family data on a computer of which I have a print-out. I have talked with him twice on the telephone. His English is far better than my Dutch! I have encouraged him to find out more about the occupations of the ancestors but none has been received so far. His work is in a separate folder here in the den. His name is Drewes Homkes. His address is Het Vlier 54-7414 AT, Deventer, The Netherlands. He has published a computer print-out entitled, "Familie Homkes Info. Bullentin #2" in both Dutch and English, side by side. I believe there are more Homkes in the United States than in The Netherlands.
My mother had four brothers: Jam William, born 16 June, 1873, never married, and died 25 September, 1901; Lubertus (Bert), born 1 October, 1874, married 31 October, 1906, died 9 November, 1954. Derk Jan (Dick) born 8 August, 1878 and never married, died 23 July, 1961; William (John) born 21 August, 1880 and died at six years of age on 24 October, 1886.
Bartlett Homkes was born in The Netherlands (probably Genemunden) and naturalized 2 April, 1872. He was a tinsmith by occupation, and shortly before his death, started his own business.
At the time of the death of my maternal grandfather in 1881, my mother was five years of age. She went to live with the family of Evert Jan Visscher. He was born 17 March, 1820 in Genemunden, Netherlands, and died 22 February, 1895. He married a girl with the last name of Bos, who he met on the boat coming over to America. So, for at least until my mother was 18 or 19 years of age, she enjoyed family life.
The Visschers had three children. Lemmie (1843-1895), who married John Anthony Wilterdink (1839-1918); Bertha, born 30 March, 1853 and died 8 March, 1904; William E., born 22 May, 1865 and died 12 December, 1899.
After the death of the Visschers, my study of family records, recollections of names and conversations with my cousin, Thelma Homkes, in Holland, Michigan indicate my mother went to live with the widow of Albert Eskes. Her maiden name was Lammetje Heetebry, who could have been a sister of my mother's mother, Jantje Heetebry.
Mrs. Eskes rented rooms to students in the college and seminary. My father probably met her here at some time when he attended seminary. He could have met her at church, too. The families referred to here probably came to Holland, Michigan through the urging of a Dr. Albertus Van Raalte. Holland, Michigan was founded in 1856. My father lived in a dormitory his four years he attended Western Theological Seminary.
As the naturalization dates show, my Uncle Carl and his wife, Cornelia, were the first to come to America. They were preceeded by Uncle Carl's wife's sister, Pieterje Wilstra, who was then married to a Garret Klount. Although naturalization papers show the name Deelsnijder for all male members of the family, the name was anglicized to Snyder as a result of settling in a predominately English-Scotish community. Today Uncle Carl's decendants use the name, Snyder. Other Deelsnyder decendants use Deelsnyder, except for me and a son of Uncle Jacob. To show the impact of the anglicizing, it should be reported my father's college diploma from Northern State College, now defunct, was in the name, Snyder. However, his divinity degree was written Deelsnyder.
Uncle Carl and Aunt Cornelia settled on farms near Fulton, Illinois working as laborers. They had six children, William, Freda, Cornelius, Peter, Dora and Edward. William (Bill) married Etta Vogel and had no children. Freda married Abe Stuart and had two children, a daughter, Carrie, and a handicapped son, who died at 21 years of age. Cornelius married Grace and had five sons, one of whom was lost in a bombing mission in World War II over Japan. Peter married Jose Vogel (sister of Etta) and had three children; Carlene, June and Edward. Dora and Edward never married. Dora died in 1980 and Edward died during World War I in Camp Cody, New Mexico.
Uncle Carl and Aunt Cornelia worked hard and, with the help of their children, prospered and purchased farms which are still owned by members of the family.
An account of the hardships is appropriate here. Bill told me his father operated a rental farm in what was then known as the bottoms, near the Mississippi river. One of the cash crops was hay. One day he took a large load of hay across the bridge running from Fulton, Illinois to Clinton, Iowa. Clinton was a thriving city with many homes and shops which used horses and wagons to deliver their products. He peddled the load all day, and finally found a buyer who offered him $1.00 for the load, unloaded into his barn. It was dark when he finished. He returned home with 80 cents for his labor and hay as he had to pay a bridge toll both ways.
Uncle Hubert Londo and Aunt Grace had six children; Henry, Kate, Winnie, William, John and Anna. I don't remember any of them.
Uncle John Maring and Aunt Alice had a son, Henry (born in Holland). I have had correspondence with a second cousin, John Maring. The name John Maring came up in an interesting way one evening many years ago at the Butlers across the street on Mt. Vernon Avenue. Where the Butlers were then living, lived a family by the name of Stilp (Steve and Mary Jo).
The Stilps came over to the house, were introduced, and detecting a mid-western accent, I asked where they came from. Neenah, Wisconsin was the reply. I said I had a cousin, John Maring, living there. Mary Jo piped up and said "His wife, Gretc hen, sang at 'her wedding'." This produced a laugh and then blushingly she said, "Our wedding". At this writing, this still brings out a chuckle, as we are close friends; they having moved back from fifteen years in an unsuccessful real estate venture in Austin, Texas.
Uncle Jacob was married twice. His first wife died early in their marriage. I do not know the names of the wives or all their children. I do know one cousin, Clara, who first married a Yarbrough, and after his death, married Mr. Van der Laan. At this writing, she was living in Morrison, Illinois. One of her sons, Robert, was aboard a submarine during World War II. Gordon has talked with him I believe.
The Snyder Farm
Contributed by Harvey & Gordon Snyder
Route 30 near Morrison
Thrashing Machine - 1926
Harvest Time 1926 On the Snyder Farm
William Snyder 1926
Riding of the Haywagon
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