R.I.P. – Louise V. Snodgrass
How does one begin to bring memories of a great friend to the attention of others? It’s not an easy task, but one that must be completed, else they may be forgotten forever.
I can’t remember where we first met, but from that first handshake with Louise Virginia Snodgrass, it was evident that I was in the presence of someone who cared about her community – and deeply so. Likely she was the burgess of Middletown at the time. My hometown of Walkersville and her Middletown were great rivals in those days of the late 1980s and early 1990s. I suppose it still exists.
But my first real sit-down with her was in her home the night she invited several friends for dinner. It was the beginning of a more than special dinner club that met once a month or so and included political friends. It seems funny now, but politics was always the hot topic at those meals, but the friendship and love for one another far outpaced any political disagreements.
Louise passed away in the early morning of June 12. She had battled disease, which began as breast cancer while she was in the General Assembly. When diagnosed in 1995, she was so committed to her job as a delegate that she took her radiation treatment before session began and then carried on her duties as if she wasn’t in pain. Such true commitment is seldom seen in our politicians.
For the next 14 years she struggled bravely, fighting peripheral neuropathy in her feet and rheumatoid arthritis in both ankles, as well as the cancers.
But that was just one mark of a remarkable woman. She suffered in silence and still gave everyone the greatest smile one can imagine. And her laugh – I miss that the most.
It was infectious. It dominated a room and made everyone present wonder what was so funny. Sometimes what made her laugh had little to do with humor. But it was her way of saying everything will be okay. It eased the tension and created a smoothing and soothing atmosphere for the work ahead. It just made it easier to tackle the hard issues.
Several politicians, like Rick Weldon and Dave Lenhart, attribute their electoral success to advice that came from Louise. She freely gave it, and for those who paid attention, success awaited.
Mr. Lenhart, who came from his Georgia home last week to pay his respects to this great lady, recalled the best advice she gave him was “to mind his P’s and Q’s, especially when dealing with the public. Never say anything that you don’t believe.
Louise had a unique ability to always adhere to her core values, never wavering. She knew when to compromise with her fellow legislators and when to stick to her guns. Some will abandon their principles to make political hay. Not Louise. And, sadly, it cost her in a re-election bid in 2002.
One of her passions was dancing. She and a group of friends formed a dance group that entertained whenever they could, bringing smiles to those in their audience.
And she had a party on St. Patrick’s Day for many years. And dancing was a big part of those events. At one of them her arthritis was particularly bothersome, but she danced with husband Frank that night, never letting those in attendance know that she was in agony. That infectious smile and laugh filled the night. She paid a heavy price for the next week or so.
Louise was also passionate about issues about which she cared. When The General Assembly was considering making South Mountain Civil War Battlefield a state park, she dressed in period costume for her appearance in support before the legislative committee considering the measure.
She wore that “dress” to other events as well, especially those in Middletown. And other politicians who were riding in Middletown parades wanted to be as far away from her as possible, because being close to her meant little recognition for themselves. She attracted the attention of the crowd and kept it until she was out of sight.
After she moved to Delaware in 2003, the only contact with her was by phone. And those conversations usually lasted an hour or so. She wanted to keep up on what was happening in Frederick County, especially in Middletown. But usually personalities came up and dominated the conversations. What were they doing? Anyone have a health issue? Are the politicians doing what is right, or were they pandering to keep their positions?
She came back to Frederick only once that I know of after her move. Terry Adams was a special friend and Louise guided her with sage advice in her march to a Circuit Court appointment by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
So, when the lady lawyer was sworn in in a packed courtroom in the Frederick County Courthouse, Louise and Frank made the trip down. It was so good to see her and to marvel at the love for her that emanated from just about everyone in attendance. Judge Adams was the center of attention, as she should have been. But, for so many, Louise and Frank were a special added attraction.
As we gathered at her gravesite last week, Father Kevin Farmer, of Holy Family Catholic Community Church in Middletown, noted that the heavens had opened with a huge spring shower as we left the church, but that the sun had broken through at Resthaven Cemetery for our final moments together.
“It seems obvious to all gathered here today that Louise is up in Heaven giving orders…and that God is listening,” he said quietly.
Louise Snodgrass has passed from our midst. Her memory, and her legacy, will linger as long as those who knew her cherish what she stood for and the way she conducted her life. It is a shining example of the good one can do by just being one’s self. She shared her ability and wise advice with those she cared about, saving her dissatisfaction with events and people for those closest to her, never with the general public.
Her passing perhaps marks the end of an era in local politics. Those in office will continue, but they may never rise to the level of sincerity, class, honesty, ability, warmth and heart that was embodied in Louise Virginia Snodgrass.
Rest in Peace. Your pain and suffering is over. You have given us a shining example of what “good” really means. You earned your reward. And now that you are in Heaven, free of pain, dance away.