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Local woman celebrates 100th birthday

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By John Barnhart

Family gathered from as far away as Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin to wish Helen Snyder a happy birthday.

Snyder, who resides at Runk and Pratt in Bedford, celebrated her 100th birthday, Monday. The celebration was attended by two sons and four grandsons. One son, Jim Stubbs, came all the way from Kansas City, Mo. The other, Robert Stubbs, came all the way from Moneta. Robert is the son who brought her here in 2003.

"She came down to live with me," he said.

"I live in Kansas City and we fought over who was going to get her," commented Jim Stubbs.

Robert Stubbs won and got to have her close by.

Snyder, a Kansas City native, served on the city's school board from 1956 until 1975. During that time, she was chosen by her fellow school board members to be its first female president. Like Bedford County, Kansas City has an elected school board and the school board, in turn, elects a president, whose duties are similar to those of the board chairman, here.

Unlike Virginia, school board members there ran as political party nominees. Snyder said that, when she was on that city's school board, that governing body was split 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans. That was because the two parties, by agreement, split up the school board and did not run opposing candidates for school board seats.

Snyder was chosen by the city's Democratic Party Central Committee.

"They talked me into it," said Snyder

The local Democrats chose her for the seat because she was party member who was heavily involved with the schools. She had three sons in the school system.

"She was president of every PTA any of us was affiliated with," said Jim Stubbs.

This was a big school system that included eight high schools plus a junior college. It served 90,000 students.

According to Snyder, there was no partisan bickering on that school board.

"If anybody got out of line, we got that taken care of at the next meeting," she commented.

She was on the school board when Kansas City integrated its public schools. The city had a large black population.

"It was good to get Democrats and Republicans working together," Snyder commented, recalling the times.

"We had a good staff," she added. "Anytime you have a good staff to back up the little people, it'll work."

Snyder said that personal work by the school board and good community leadership helped smooth things out.

"I visited the schools that had the colored children and kept in touch personally," she said. "And, they [the black community] had good leadership too."

She enjoyed being on the school board, especially visiting elementary schools.

"Those kids are so much fun!" she said. "Children are so nice and the parents are always interested. If they realize you are doing something for their children they are cooperative."

Snyder said that she and her fellow school board members took their duties seriously.

"We worked hard to make them [the schools] better," she said.

"They just don't go there and go to sleep," she added. "You go there to work and solve problems."

Snyder, who said she reads about the Bedford area schools, said that this area has good schools.