BAR HARBOR – Edward Furnas Snyder, age 90, died at daybreak on Aug. 12, 2016, at the Mount Desert Island Hospital. His body, which had served him so well, was failing, and death brought relief after a brief but rapid decline. In his last days and hours, he was surrounded by his four children, several grandchildren, and close friends. His mind was present and engaged until the end.
Ed was born Nov. 13, 1925, in Belle Plaine, Iowa, to Edward F. Snyder Sr. and Mary Ella Blue Snyder. Edward Sr. was a lawyer and already a pillar of his community when he died at age 37, leaving his wife and three children, of whom Edward, at 7, was the oldest. Edward’s mother obtained a postgraduate degree at the Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa. In 1936, the midst of the Great Depression, she accepted a teaching position at the University of Maine. She packed her mother, three children and the family dog into a Model A, and moved the family from Iowa to Orono.
Ed, known to his classmates as “Red,” graduated from Orono Grammar School in 1939 and from Orono High School in 1943, where he played football and basketball. He attended an accelerated program at Bowdoin College, completing three semesters before joining the Army Air Corps in February 1944, where he served for 22 months. Upon his return, he attended the University of Maine on the GI bill, majoring in history. During summers he often worked on the university’s farms. He graduated in 1948, member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, the student senate, and reporter for campus. He won the Percival Wood Clement essay contest with his 3,000-word entry “The Constitution and Individual Rights.” During the summer of 1948, he hitchhiked west to work in the white pine blister rust control program in Glacier National Park, Montana. And in the summer of 1949, he worked for Charles and Katherine Savage as desk clerk at the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor. He followed his father and his uncle into the law, and in 1951 he graduated from Yale Law School, having served on the Yale Law Journal.
In the summer of 1950, he and a law school classmate hitchhiked across Europe. On the student ship bound for Europe, he met Dorothy Mae (Bonnie) Mumford. They fell in love and were married the following year on June 16, 1951. Bonnie and Ed shared 58 years of joyful, caring and loving life together until she died in November 2009. They raised four children: Edith, William, Marjorie and Russell.
Ed served as law clerk to Chief Judge Thomas W. Swan of the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, before joining the law firm of Cummings and Lockwood, Stamford, Conn., in 1952.
During this period, Ed and Bonnie became active members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Their faith sustained them through life. In 1955, Ed left his promising legal career to follow a leading of the Spirit. He took a job as a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker organization representing Friends’ concerns for peace and justice in the nation’s capital, and moved his young family to the Washington, D.C., area. In 1962, he became executive secretary of the organization, and headed its work until his retirement in 1990. He and Bonnie raised their four children in the caring Quaker community of Adelphi Friends Meeting in Maryland.
During his time in Washington, he often testified before Senate and House committees. He worked in support of creation of the Peace Corps, a nuclear test ban treaty, human rights, development assistance to needy countries, an end to the military draft and other issues of concern to Quakers.
His work in opposition to the U.S. war in Vietnam was strengthened by a two year experience in Southeast Asia (1967-1969) working for the American Friends Service Committee. During this period, with his family living in Singapore, he traveled widely in the region, supporting Quaker relief efforts in Vietnam and organizing five Quaker International Conferences and Seminars for Diplomats and Young Leaders. One memory he related was that the fruits of this work were evident when two young leaders from Malaysia and the Philippines, countries in conflict with each other at that time, told Ed that their new-found friendship with each other meant: “if my country goes to war against yours, I won’t join up myself and instead I will set up an organization of conscientious objectors.” This was peace work for the long haul. He saw first-hand the suffering of the people of Vietnam, and he brought that experience with him when he returned to lobbying on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
During his 35 years working for the Quakers, he also participated in Quaker-related conferences in Eastern Europe, the USSR and Cuba. In Washington, he helped to organize a number of coalitions on peace, human rights, United Nations support, and developmental aid. He served on the Board of the American Friends Service Committee, the National Council of Churches, the Center for International Policy, and 20/20 Vision. Some of his work is detailed in a book he co-authored, Witness in Washington: Fifty Years of Friendly Persuasion, (Friends United Press, 2nd ed., 1994).
Upon retirement in 1990, Ed was named executive secretary emeritus of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. He and Bonnie moved from College Park, Md., to a solar house they helped design and build on Otter Cliff Road in Bar Harbor. They became active members of Acadia Friends Meeting, which was a great source of spiritual enrichment and fellowship for them. In Maine, Ed helped to found the Friends Committee on Maine Public Policy, which has emphasized criminal justice and Maine Indian issues. He also helped found, and served as chair, of the Board of the MDI Restorative Justice Program. Ed was a strong supporter of environmental causes, and a representative to the 1999 Maine Global Climate Change Conference. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Haverford College in 2002 for “devotion and support for peace and justice throughout the world, and commitment to connecting Quaker beliefs with political education and action.” In his late 80s, he was an active member of the Occupy movement, and co-facilitated a class in the Acadia Senior College exploring the question: “Does the moral arc of the universe bend towards justice?” and another on the moral issues presented by the development of artificial intelligence.
Ed introduced his wife and children to his love of the outdoors, including a 10,000-mile camping trip visiting national parks coast to coast in 1966. But trips to visit extended family in Maine were always the highlight, especially camping and hiking in the Baxter Park region and Mount Desert Island. In 1993, at age 67, he fulfilled a lifelong ambition and canoed the Allagash with his sons. At age 70, he climbed Mount Katahdin for the last time.
During his last years, Ed found great joy spending time with his grandchildren and following their accomplishments. He attended all the plays and musical performances by Francis and Bonnie Mae Snyder at MDI High School, and watched the Bangor Daily News for details of track meet successes of Roy and Sam Donnelly. Their 86 year age difference did not seem to matter when he read to his granddaughter Blue Snyder.
He loved hiking and in the year he turned 89 proudly accomplished walking all the carriage roads of Acadia National Park within one season, faithfully highlighting each on the MDI map. He enjoyed cutting, splitting, and stacking his own firewood, working in the garden and reading widely and deeply.
As a boy, Edward persevered in the daunting task of giving the family dog a special daily bath to cure a skin condition, prompting his grandmother to say, “Edward has stick-to-it-iveness.” This quality was present throughout his life, in all its aspects.
He was known to be strong-willed but fair-minded, always taking time to listen. His life and work were based in a deep faith. He had a passion for a future he believed to be possible. Many, many people were encouraged to take action for peace and justice by his example.
Ed held high expectations for himself, his family, and the people he worked with, and these could sometimes be experienced as judgment and asking too much. But these expectations came from a deep place of love and generosity, and the love always won out in the end.
Ed rose to the challenges life presented to him. When his dear wife Bonnie suffered with progressing dementia in her final years, Ed was her devoted and loving caregiver to the end. And when his own end neared, he faced death with courage and faith.
Edward is survived by his daughter Edith Snyder Lyman and her husband, Nicholas Lyman, of Bar Harbor; his son William Furnas Snyder and his wife, Laura Muller, and their daughter Susannah Blue Snyder, of Amherst, Mass.; his daughter Marjorie Blue Snyder, her sons Roy Mumford Donnelly and Samuel Blue Donnelly, and their father, Robert William Donnelly, of Hampden; his son Russell Mumford Snyder, and his son Francis Edward Snyder and daughter Bonnie Mae Snyder, and their mother Ellen Jane Finn, of Otter Creek; his brother Ralph McCoy Snyder and his wife, Mary Dirks Snyder, of Belfast, and his sister Mary Louise Snyder Dow, of Marietta, Ga.
A celebration of Ed Snyder’s life will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, at the Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor, under the care of Acadia Friends Meeting. All are welcome. Memorial contributions may be made to the Friends Committee on National Legislation https://fcnl.org/ at 245 2nd Street NE, Washington, DC 20002 or https://fcnl.org/donate/honor/fcnl/.