In 30 years of teaching band and choir at Chisholm High School, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who heard Jerry Snyder raise his voice. He didn’t have to.
“He was one of those people whose presence just demanded respect,” former student Kim Thomas said. “There weren’t shenanigans. You never did that in Jerry’s class. Everybody just respected him. He treated everybody like adults, and he just expected you to behave.”
Patient, quiet and calm, if Snyder had a point to make, said former choir student and longtime friend Vicki Gornick, he could do it with a sideways glance. Once, she said, he expressed frustration with the tenors during a church choir practice with a stern “Come on, guys.”
Snyder, who retired to Arizona to play golf in 1999, died July 11 after COVID-19 exacerbated underlying health issues, family members said. He was 81. News of his death reverberated across the Iron Range, family and friends say. Snyder for many years directed the Hibbing city band, led the choir at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and played trombone during summer concerts.
Snyder’s children — Rick Snyder and Julie Wedell — also played in the school band. Their father was the same calm and respectful presence at home as he was at school, they said.
“He was a great guy,” Wedell said. “I remember in high school thinking I had the greatest dad in the world, that nobody else had a dad as great as I did.”
Said Rick Snyder: “He was very wise about things. He didn’t rush to judgment and was sure to get multiple sides of a story before he made decisions.”
Gerald Lee “Jerry” Snyder was born July 4, 1939, in Duluth, graduated from East High School and attended the University of Minnesota Duluth. There, the music major met fellow trombone player Mary Ann Quayle. They married after graduation and moved to the Twin Cities, returning to the Iron Range in 1969 after starting a family. Jerry was music coordinator at Chisholm High School; Mary Ann taught at Roosevelt Primary School. The family lived in the middle of the block separating the two schools.
Mary Ann died in 1994. After retiring, Snyder moved to Phoenix, where he met and married Annette Moen. She died in 2015, Rick Snyder said. He played in jazz bands there and returned to Chisholm often.
He is survived by children Richard of Crystal and Julie Wedell of Ham Lake; a brother, Donald Snyder of Hayward, Wis.; a sister, Wendy Kimball of Silver Bay, Minn., and two grandchildren. A memorial service is being planned.