William A. Snedeker ’79
Deceased April 15, 2011
William Audley Snedeker – universally known as Sned – passed away on April 15 from a stroke he suffered after taking his beloved daughter, Tatiana, to school. Sned is survived by his wife of 25 years, Linda; his son, Garrett (of the Great Class of 2009); ten-year-old Tatiana; an extended family; and more friends than I will be able to collect in eight lifetimes.
Sned would want the usual stuff disposed of quickly. Born in New Jersey. Andover, class of 1975. History major; wrote a thesis about early 20th century arms control. Georgetown Law. New York City lawyer with a bunch of law firms, massive to small, before setting up his own shop within a regional firm.
What defined Sned was his devotion to family – with “family” being defined broadly to include pretty much everyone he knew. Sned was not a Facebook friend, he was the real deal. If you had troubles, he was there for you, to listen and console. If you needed help or advice, he would give you every bit of his time and attention. He celebrated others’ successes as if they were his own. Sned did not show off his smarts – there was not a shred of pretense in the man – but he was one of the best-read and most cerebral people I have known. And, of course, he was possessed of a contagious ebullience; you simply could not help but smile when Sned was around. As Jamie Brigagliano said: “There is no one, no one, who celebrated each day more than Sned.”
The stories of Sned’s revelries are, as they say, legion. I could tell you about Sned igniting some table decorations at the old Trader Vic’s in the Plaza Hotel after a few Samoan Fog Cutters. Or the time we had a “snowball” fight with a sack of dinner rolls we discovered outside a restaurant at 4:00 a.m. Or Sned crashing, and being ejected from, a very haute party -- three times. Or Sned’s smuggling, not just a flask, but glasses, ice, and mixers, into a movie theater and serving drinks throughout Blood Suckers From Outer Space (Sned’s choice, it should go without saying). Or the time we managed to get kicked out of a NYC cab. What made all of these escapades so Snedian was not only the laughter we shared, but that they all happened in one night.
Sned loved Amherst. I think he loved the College because that was where Bill became Sned. He thrived on the academic challenges. He reveled in the informal rituals that animate the place (Sned barreling down Memorial Hill on a Valentine tray was a vision of all-consuming joy). He even enjoyed the occasional snooty ceremony, in a Pythonesque sort of way (Peter Friedrichs said, “while Sned loved tradition, he wasn't traditional”). But what he mostly loved about Amherst College were the friendships he formed there, and which he made sure endured and deepened through the years. Sned was an enthusiastic DKE, but the entire College was his fraternity – he was as comfortable joking with Amherst's Presidents as he was with Officer Keyes. He was also renowned among Amherst parents. Amy Wilfert, whose daughter, Kate, is a classmate of Garrett's, wrote: "As much of a legend as he was when we were at school, he was equally so as a parent of a student. He just seemed to belong there in a way that needs no explanation to anyone who knew him." It is right, then, that his ashes are strewn about the campus of the Fairest College. As Sned would say, “So be it.”
-- Kurt Schwarz '79
Perhaps the most significant thing that I’ve done in the past twenty-five years, and certainly one of the most adventurous, was to join my wife on a twelve thousand mile odyssey to Siberia in 2001 to adopt our daughter Tatiana. At the time our son Garrett had been an only child for fourteen years. Garrett had received all of our attention for fourteen years and had turned out to be a great kid (mostly due to his mother’s care and influence I would add). But Garrett still longed for a brother or sister, as we longed for another child. He took an active part in the discussions of our adoption plans and played a role in our decision-making.
Starting in the spring of 200, my wife Linda and I spent nine months laying the groundwork for an international adoption. We completed reams of paperwork and had two interviews with social workers. Finally, we received a call from our adoption agency on December 26, 2000 saying that they had a referral for us: a six-month old baby girl in an orphanage in Siberia. We viewed a ten-minute video of Tatiana at the agency and fell in love with her. We were told that we would be the first couple from our adoption agency to adopt from this particular orphanage in Siberia – we were to be the pioneers. The adoption process would also require two separate trips to Russia. Proceeding quickly after months of waiting, we made plans to travel to the city of Krasnoyarsk, Siberia in January 2001. For those of you who may be somewhat unfamiliar with Siberian geography, Krasnoyarsk is three hundred miles north of Mongolia and about five hundred miles west of Lake Baikal – literally on the other side of the world.
Eschewing the charms of Aeroflot, we flew to Vienna on Austrian Air on January 27, 2001, switched planes in Vienna, and then flew to Moscow. After a twelve-hour layover in a Moscow airport hotel, we boarded a domestic Russian flight (through the cargo hold) and flew five hours to Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Altogether, we had flown through exactly twelve time zones – no need to reset our watches. We were met in Krasnoyarsk by Alex and Elena, our English-speaking guides through the Russian adoption process. We checked into a top floor suite at the Hotel Krasnoyarsk, which featured a view of the mighty Yenisey River and the extensive ice sculpture garden in front of the hotel.
The next day we traveled to the orphanage where we met Tatiana for the first time. She was lively and alert, and interacted well with us. She was one of about eighty infants and toddlers in the orphanage, and she slept in a room with fourteen other babies, each in their own crib. We also met the orphanage director, a lovely woman of about fifty-five who spoke no English but clearly cared deeply for all her charges. The orphanage director appreciated the large package we brought with us full of baby clothes, medicines, and baby toys. We spent another three days in Krasnoyarsk in January, seeing Tatiana twice more and starting the Russian adoption process with the relevant Russian bureaucracies. We also endured the bone-chilling Siberian winter weather, which reached minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit. On the way home, we took KrasAir to Moscow and stayed in Moscow for four days. We went to the Bolshoi Ballet and took a walking tour of the Kremlin in the show.
On March 18, 2001, we returned to Siberia to complete the adoption process. The March weather in Siberia was a relatively balmy 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The day we arrived back in Krasnoyarsk, we went to the orphanage and were permitted to bring Tatiana back to our hotel room. For the next five days, Tatiana lived with us in our hotel room while we finalized the adoption process. I was responsible for the baby food shopping while Tatiana lived in our hotel room, and this responsibility led to some interesting sign language and pictogram communication with the non-English speaking clerks in the local stores. If you ever find yourself in Siberia with a hungry infant, a hand-drawn picture of a cow is universally recognized as a request for strained beef baby food. Linda and I appeared before a female Russian judge in the local courthouse for our formal adoption hearing. The hearing, in which Linda and I were questioned by the Russian judge as to our backgrounds and fitness as adoptive parents, was conducted entirely in Russian. Alex, our English-speaking guide, translated for us and the judge. We were overjoyed when the judge announced that our adoption of Tatiana was approved. The next day we obtained Tatiana’s Russian adoption certificate and her new Russian birth certificate, where we renamed her Tatiana Audley Snedeker. The following day we obtained a Russian passport for Tatiana. Following a celebratory dinner with Alex and Elena, we flew back to Moscow with Tatiana. On the flight to Moscow, many Russians were pleased to hear about our adoption and very happy that we named her Tatiana, a very Russian name. We stayed in Moscow for another three days while we obtained a U.S. Visa for Tatiana from the American embassy. ON March 28, we arrived back home in the USA with Tatiana. Tatiana has thrived in the last three years. While she was undernourished and underweight when we first brought her home, she quickly recovered after a few months of proper nutrition. We met with a physical therapist a couple of times, and she determined that Tatiana was doing fine and had no need for physical therapy. Tati started walking at 14 months. Today she is almost four, enjoying nursery school and learning to read. She also enjoys teasing her big brother, who is very happy to have her around.