Esther Snyder is the best
To The Editor:
I was dismayed to learn from Brian Sweeney’s latest column that Esther Snyder will be retiring from the Catskill Mountain News team, where she has gamely played for more than five decades of full-on service. I was also dismayed that Brian was actually allowed to write about Esther, but I’m hoping that Esther got to proof the column to correct Brian’s egregious typos and exaggerations of fact.
Exaggerations are easy when it comes to describing Esther Snyder. In my three-plus decades of grownup life as a working sod in many locations foreign and local, Esther is the hardest working, most dedicated, most conscientious and undoubtedly the kindest co-worker I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. She made me welcome from my first days at the News in 2004, helped me learn the ropes, whether it was the peculiarities of the coffee machine, the “chameleon” temperaments of certain co-workers, how the Tuesday muffin thing worked, how annoying Brian could be, and especially, the proud, multi-generational history of the great local institution to which we were both dedicated, the News.
I treasured her stories of working with three generations of Sanfords; Clarke, Roswell and Dick, how different they all were from each other, and what each brought to the News. Esther began her tenure at the News as a newly minted high-school graduate under Clarke. Readers should know that it is Esther, and Esther alone, who culled the wonderful nuggets of the “Yellowed Pages,” always my favorite read in the paper.
Over our several years of working together, it became apparent that Esther and I did not have much in common politically, but we both learned to learn from each other (conservative religious upstater meets lesbian pagan southerner) and “discuss” because there was so much we loved in common (Roxbury. And uh, Roxbury. And the News. And Catskills’ history.)
Esther made me happy to come to work because she was always so eager and willing to listen to me and to catch up with my goings on. Who knew how subtle that was? Over time, I learned of her own struggles and hardships, the loss of her daughter, and how much she was trying to help and understand the ever-changing lives of her beloved grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Esther has only broken one oath in all the time I’ve known her. She swore up and down that she would NOT, not, not, take on the Roxbury Social News column (remember, this was once the “point of pride” of long-gone Roxbury historian Irma Mae Griffin) and later written by Barbara Scudder. Once Barbara left the region a few years ago, and almost all the “social news” columns faded away, sure enough, there was Esther, calling up folks and getting the Roxbury news. Esther, I knew you would do it, and keep up the good work.
I have so many good Esther stories, I don’t even know where to start. When I moved to the Catskills in my 40s, with my own mother far, far away, here was suddenly someone so much like my own mother. This was not always easy. Like my feisty mother, Esther expects a lot, and you hate it when you disappoint her or don’t live up to her high standards. But a little bit of Esther in your life every week will make you a better person. Whenever I feel “whiny” about living in the Catskills and the snow and the poverty and the transfer station, I think about Esther, manning her stove, writing her journals, and making sure she has one “junk” vehicle, which she calls her “deer-killing” car, in case some terminal illness strikes the (slightly more insurable) vehicle she prefers to drive.
Those cars? They often came with incongruous stickers, like “Aloha, peace!” Or “Commit Random Acts of Kindness.” Nice, but not Esther’s (or my) style. We’d be more like, “Please commit deliberate acts of good grammar and punctuation.” Or “AP Stylebook or Roadkill” But, that’s just us.
Esther, when I think about you, I think about all the chuckles we used to share. And hey, if most of them were at Brian’s expense, too bad! I know you will continue to write in your journals, be a part of our great community, and if I were you, I would check in with Dick every once in a while, and make sure he has everything under control.
With all my love and respect.