Howard W. Snyder, 82, electronics technician

January 30, 1999|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Howard W. Snyder, a retired electronics technician and amateur radio operator whose interests ranged from restoring vintage Ford automobiles to helping mechanically inept friends with their projects, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at St. Joseph Medical Center. The Hampton resident was 82.

A ham radio operator since 1932 whose call letters were W3LMC -- "W3 London Mary Charlie" -- Mr. Snyder was speaking on Dec. 7, 1941, with a fellow ham in Honolulu who suddenly said, "Something big is going on here. I'll call you next Sunday." That was the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

"He also talked to Adm. Richard Byrd on one of his South Pole expeditions and even King Hussein [of Jordan], who is a ham [operator]," said his daughter, Elizabeth Anne Reilly, with whom he lived. "He said that Hussein was one heck of a guy."

In the 1950s, Mr. Snyder went mobile when he installed a radio receiving and sending set and a 10-foot-high antenna on the bumper of his 1949 Ford coupe. To break the tedium of cross-country trips, Mr. Snyder talked to hams along the way and was often invited to stop by for a meal.

A man of medium height who favored rimless glasses, flannel shirts and fedoras, Mr. Snyder was born and raised in Pottsville, Pa., where he graduated from high school. Afternoons, he worked in his father's auto repair shop, where he developed a lifelong interest in cars.

He meticulously restored seven antique automobiles, including a bright yellow 1913 Ford speedster and a black 1916 Model-T, both of which he drove the rest of his life. With Mr. Snyder at the wheel wearing a straw boater, his cars were a feature of Towson's annual July Fourth Parade.

He also edited a local Model-T newsletter for restoration enthusiasts. "He found his Model-T on a farm in northern Baltimore County with a tree growing through it and carefully restored it," said Ms. Riley.

Mr. Snyder, who came to Baltimore before World War II as a member of a Naval Reserve unit, was given top-secret clearance and assigned to Section T Naval Ordnance on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus. There, he worked on the proximity fuse the British had developed.

While working in the laboratory, he met and spoke with Albert Einstein, who was visiting, and he recalled the "twinkle in the great man's eye," said William Stump, a longtime friend.

He later joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia, where he worked on numerous projects, including a ground support system for the space shuttle Columbia. He retired from APL in 1983.

"He was a typical Gemini with so many interests," his daughter said.

He had prospected unsuccessfully for uranium in Arizona. He also enjoyed power boating, photography, archery, and helping friends when it came to fixing anything.

Mr. Snyder had three working areas, an electronics room, a radio shack and a garage that was filled to capacity with all types of tools.

"He was an inveterate fixer-upper and often a person in a jam would say, `My God, we need Snyder,' " said Mr. Stump, who lives in Cockeysville.

"He could handle any problem, carpentry or repairing any appliance. Car friends constantly called him to solve problems with antique Edsels or modern cars."

One friend had been told by an auto dealer that it would cost $300 to fix his car radio.

"Snyder fixed it in 10 minutes," said Stump, laughing.

Another frustrated friend came to him about a kitchen cart he had received as a gift at Christmas.

"He was dismayed by the Malaysian instructions and bags of bolts and screws needed to assemble the thing. Snyder told him he could have it assembled in an hour and did.

"He never turned down a request for help of this kind and never would take any money. He said it was the thing he liked to do and, as a result, had many friends," Mr. Stump said.

In 1957, Mr. Snyder married Margaret Poole, who died in 1978.

He was a member of Divinity Lutheran Church, 1220 Providence Road in Towson, where a service celebrating his life will be held at 11 a.m. today.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by two nephews, Donald Snyder of Minersville, Pa., and Alan Snyder of Marlin, Pa.

Pub Date: 1/30/99

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