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Sonoma County Gazette
Judson F. Snyder

Jud Snyder - Rohnert Park Journalist and Friend

Mar 7, 2018


Judson F. Snyder - August 12, 1925-March 3, 2018

By Irene Hilsendager

As I sit writing this, I am very sad because as of March 5, 2018 I lost a dear friend of thirty years. He was intelligent, stubborn but had a great wit about him. So, these words will reflect what his friendship meant to me.

Jud and I met in 1988 in a very small storefront that was the office of the old Clarion newspaper located on Southwest Blvd. in Rohnert Park. Since it was a little office with partitions some offices didn’t have connecting doors, so in order to get to Jud’s office I would have to leave the circulation office, step onto gravel and usually mud, to enter a side door next to Jud’s desk. His usual greeting was “What do you want?” I didn’t know if I should call him Mr. Snyder, Judson or Jud as we had not been properly introduced.

Shortly thereafter, the Clarion moved to a very small office on Professional Center Drive just a few miles north where Jud would typeset, write his columns and be a regular newshound. He was always seen at every city hall meeting, ribbon cutting and likened the library to his second home. As long as his wife Pauline was able to get around, he would drive her to different libraries - they were a great pair. Jud being very tall and Pauline being just a little bitty thing.

Having such a long friendship, we did have screaming matches at times. He would say, “Where did you go to school? You can’t do that, haven’t I shown you enough times?” “What did you do with the examples I gave you?” I would go home and tell my husband how Jud and I would interact and my husband, John always said, “if you want to work with him, just agree and nod your head.” After a few months, we depended on each other for where the best events would be in the city and who would have the best spread (food).

After Jud became editor of The Community Voice, we worked extremely close together, by that I mean, we settled in a room that was about 10 X 10 in size and one small desk and Jud’s large desk with a copy machine. The printer was almost sitting in my lap. At that time Jud still had a very hard time fighting with a computer. If I had a quarter for every time I had to show him how to save a file or send an email, I would be a very rich gal. I used to get very frustrated with him. We would get press releases and he would type them up on his computer and then delete it. He was supposed to send them by email to the editor, Bill Lynch at the Sonoma Index-Tribune or to me to copy edit but relentlessly deleted each and every one. Then because he thought I knew so much about computers, he would say just re-type it and give it to Sonoma. Frustration was not the word I usually said, but I laugh to this day how many times I had to re-do items or look for an article on his computer because he didn’t hit save.

Politics will never be the same for Rohnert Park.

Jud held the city council to the fire at all times. He loved Tuesday evenings (city council nights) as he would be able to have his coffee and his beloved sweets before each meeting. Some of the old council members would say, “If we didn’t have coffee here, Jud would never show up for the meeting.” Many of the retired and even some of the present council people had many arguments with Jud. Most of the time it was, we will agree to disagree.

I believe that after his beloved Pauline died, Jud did not lose heart for the newspaper, but he lost his companion and became very lonely. Books and his pen and ink drawings were his love.

I will miss the Monday and Tuesday phone calls, when he would say, “My computer has a virus, get over here to fix it so I can do the weekly column.” Well, the funny part of it is that Jud did not have internet and so there was no way he could pick up a virus. Usually, I would stop on my way home from work and give a little knock on the door, push it open and say, “Hey what did you do again to the computer?” His curt answer would be, “Nothing I just hit the button here and nothing happens.” Of course, he was combining two or three files together without knowing what he was doing, but it was always very comical, most of the time it really was just some cracker crumbs and liquid spilled into the keyboard.

When it came the time where Jud was having trouble walking, it was very sad to see a volunteer driving him somewhere and he would just sit in the car. I know that it hurt him deeply not to be able to come into the office and literally bellow, “Irene, you cannot re-write my column.” I would just smile and say yes, Jud, I won’t.” but by that time Jud’s memory was getting a little hazy but while copying and editing, I would slip in a word that I knew he wanted to use. My heart would go out to him. My husband lived seven years with Alzheimer’s, so I knew how hard it was for the both of them.

Jud’s last few months were very hard for him and all of his friends because the conversations would be all over the map. He was my friend and friends are a lifetime. I have a short saying that says. It takes one minute to meet a new friend, one hour to admire and respect them and one day to love them, but an entire lifetime to forget them.

I must tell the last “chewing” out that Jud gave me. He called and wanted a photographer to take a picture of some trees on Country Club Drive. He was very adamant it had to be a Honey Locust tree. The trees had not leafed out yet so how did I know which was a honey locust or something I couldn’t pronounce. His particular column that week was on Gina Belforte’s campaign and microwave ovens. I don’t know where the tree came in, but he was blustered and loud, but it had nothing to do with the photo. He said it wasn’t right that I had my byline under the picture and another byline in another article next to his column. He told his caregiver that he was angry because I did not call him back. I knew better. You didn’t argue with Jud when he was angry.

I visited Jud two times just before passing. I remembered that I saw the obituary he left on his laptop and also his last column. While there I managed to use a flash drive and was able to retrieve both items and they are being used in the local newspaper, The Community Voice located in Rohnert Park. So, I am so proud that he had the foresight to write his own obit. I again visited him just a few hours before his demise. I told him, “Old friend, you have covered your last beat and it is time to go and interview others.” Two hours later, he went on his way to a better and more peaceful place. I would really like to know if he will argue politics and correct newspaper reporters after he has greeted so many of his friends that have gone before him.

So, old friend, God speed!

And because Jud was who he was - he wrte his own obituary before he died. It's a very good idea for someone who was a master of 'tis - the only thing we now know that he didn't know then was the date of his death...we'll fill that in for him...

Obituary: Judson Snyder

Judson F. Snyder, former editor of the Community Voice and current columnist (Coffee Grounds), has died at the age of 93 according to Tim McGuire, his nephew and legal representative, who lives in Liverpool near Syracuse, in upstate New York. He was preceded in death by his wife, M. Pauline Xavier, in June 2010. Cause of his death was complications from diabetes, which he has been fighting for longer than a decade.

Born in Huntington, Long Island NY, he attended local schools and graduated from Farmingdale High School in 1943 then promptly enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he served for three years including one year in the South Pacific.

SNYDER AND HIS WIFE later moved to San Francisco and then moved to Sonoma County in 1972 and settled in the Hessel District. He landed a job as editor of a weekly tabloid published by Paul Golis, co-founder of Rohnert Park, then joined the reportorial staff with the tabloid weekly, the Clarion and then as a reporter on the first issue ofThe Community Voice for the next 26 years.

No religious ceremonies are planned and burial private rites are by Adobe Creek

Funeral Home in Petaluma. Public tributes can be made by dedicating a tree near the RP Community Center or a bench nearby. His name already exists on the honor wall plaque occasionally on view in the Spreckels theater lobby.

I rather like the idea of the tree - it has the opportunity to live a very long like - just like Jud did.


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