'The most loving, caring kid ever': Hinsdale grieves for a life cut too short
"It's been hard on all of us,"said Police Chief Todd Faulkner, who responded to the scene near Pisgah State Park after his officers called him in for assistance. "He was a great kid."
Snyder was a 2017 graduate of Hinsdale High School and had recently taken a job at the new Sunoco station on Route 119 and was taking college courses at River Valley Community College.
"The customers loved him," said Rick Gannoe, the manager of the Sunoco. "He was very special. He was the kind of employee you dream about ... always happy and always in a good mood. He was more than an employee. We will miss him."
At the high school, Superintendent Wayne Woolridge called staff and faculty to a meeting on Sunday morning, to which close to 100 people showed up, to prepare them for helping the students upon their return to school Monday.
"This is a tight-knit community that is incredibly supportive of its kids," Woolridge told the Reformer. He said the effects of Snyder's death will be felt for a long time. "Matt was one of those contagiously happy kids who elevated the lives of a lot of our young people. We are trying to process our grief and help our students and staff cope. We understand this is going to take a long time."
Leo Marshall, the school's in-school suspension supervisor got to know Snyder after he and a couple of other boys got in trouble for horsing around. Eventually, Snyder became a de facto member of the Marshall family and a good friend to Marshall's own son, Kramer. Often, said Marshall, he would take Snyder, Kramer and other boys fishing. Marshall recalled one day fishing on the Deerfield River when Snyder and Kramer stumbled upon a pair of bear cubs on the shore.
"I was watching from a bridge about 250 yards away when I saw the mama bear splash into the water from the other side of the river," recalled Marshall. "I was screaming at them and they could barely hear me but when they saw the mama bear in the water they started running away, scrabbling over the rocks."
Marshall said the boys were never in any real danger but remembering that incident always brings a smile to his face.
"Matt was somebody very special," said Marshall. "He was the incredibly caring kid who didn't have an enemy in the world and everybody who came into contact with him loved him."
Marshall said being a big, African American kid in Hinsdale might have been hard for someone else, but not Snyder.
"He was an integral part of our community," said Marshall. "His death leaves a huge hole. We will miss the positive things he brought to us, the comic relief. He was hysterical and witty. But most of all, he was a teddy bear. He was the most loving, caring kid ever."
Principal Ann Freitag agreed with Marshall's assessment.
"Matt was a phenomenally wonderful human being," she said. "Even when he got into trouble, he always had a smile on his face and promised to try harder."
There will be a Memorial of Life Service for Snyder on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Hinsdale Middle High School gymnasium, led by Pastor Michael T. McCosker. Following the service there will be a pot luck reception in the school cafeteria.
In addition, the school has been offering counseling services for students and faculty alike, said Freitag.
"A lot of the staff were very close to him," she said. "He was that kind of person."
For now, students, community members and faculty and staff at the high school are leaning on each other to get through this hard time, said Freitag.
"He came to Hinsdale in the third grade," said Freitag. "He was a big part of the fabric of this community. It's hard to imagine this community without Matt."
"It's heartbreaking," said Faulkner. "I remember the last time I saw him. He was on the other side of the room. He smiled and waved and got up out of his chair to give me a high five and ask how things were going. It was always that way with him. He was just that kind of kid."
Marshall said folks in town are sharing stories about Matt as part of learning to live without him. "We've been talking, telling happy stories about Matt. That's what he would want from us."
"He was a big bundle of friendliness," said Gannoe. "He was really something. I am going to miss him because he was such a special kid."
For more information on resources available to the children of Hinsdale High School, visit http://www.hnhsd.org.
Bob Audette can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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