By Chris Smith
George Snyder, a newspaperman, conservationist and outdoorsman whose
endeavors reflected his Native American heritage and his spiritual
connection to nature, died Thursday. He was 68. Snyder was a 33-year
resident of Occidental and a striking character: a tall, black man who
typically wore cowboy duds and a broad smile. He was battling pancreatic
cancer when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors honored him last fall
with a Gold Resolution recognizing his decades of commitment to the
preservation of wild and open spaces and protection of the environment.
He had served for 10 years on the county Fish and Wildlife Commission and
contributed to the founding of the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space
District, LandPaths and the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation. Snyder told the
board and the family members and friends present in the supervisors'
chambers last September, ³A lot of people have made a lot of money in this
county, and some of it has been hard on nature. We're all hard on nature.
³But many of us also have other riches that we find in working with Mother
Earth and the natural world.²
Caryl Hart, the county's director of regional parks and a close friend of
Snyder and his wife, Sara Peyton, praised him as ³one of these rare people
who had such a depth of knowledge about the outdoors and the natural world,
and who was also such a family man. He managed to be both.² Friend and
fellow retired journalist Bob Klose of Sebastopol said, ³If you were active
in the North Bay the past 30 years or so and didn't know George Snyder, you
weren't paying attention.²
Snyder was born in New Orleans in 1944 and grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
He was proud of his ancestry, which included Scots-Irish, African American,
Chinese, Cherokee and Choctaw. He studied at Michigan State University and
became a journalist, working most of his career on the news staff of The San
Francisco Chronicle. On and off the job, Snyder was a source of information,
insight and inspiration to advocates of preserving open spaces and
encouraging people to get out and enjoy them.
Craig Anderson, the director of Santa Rosa-based LandPaths, said he regarded
Snyder as a keeper of the hearth, someone the land-stewardship organization
could look to for wisdom and guidance. Anderson added, ³As a musician, I
have to say George had the most beautiful voice.² In addition to his wife of
33 years in Occidental, Snyder is survived by his children, Tobias Snyder of
San Francisco, Samuel Snyder of Carlsbad, Jesse Snyder of New York City and
Cree Welch Snyder Schmidt of Beder, Denmark; brothers Edd Snyder and Andre
Snyder, both of Michigan, and six grandchildren.
A memorial service is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 19 at St. Philip the Apostle
Church in Occidental. Snyder's family suggests memorial contributions to the
Sonoma County Regional Parks Foundation, 2300 County Center Dr., Suite 120A,
Santa Rosa, CA 95403.