Although he was in the communications business his entire life — he was an Ohio State journalism graduate, had written a sports column for the college paper, The Lantern, and spent 38 years in the sports Information department at OSU — this is something he never talked about publicly.
And only rarely — and ever so briefly — would he bring it up in private to those closest to him.
He didn’t reveal it to his late parents who had raised him in Sidney.
He said little about it to his younger brother, Scott, who is now a singer and songwriter in Los Angeles.
And he confided almost none of it to Elaine, his wife of 24 years.
But Steve Snapp can’t stop us now.
The longtime OSU fixture died late last week at age 69 after a long battle with cancer and a debilitating stroke.
His family – including six children and seven grandchildren – will receive friends at the Schoedinger Funeral Home in Worthington on Tuesday (3 to 8 p.m.) and Wednesday (3 to 7 p.m.) The funeral will be Thursday morning at 11 at the Upper Arlington Lutheran Church and he’ll then be buried in Sidney.
But if you’re going to truly remember Steve Snapp, you must discuss the one thing he would not.
Especially today – Memorial Day – a day we remember our military men and women who sacrificed for us.
Snapp was a U.S Marine who served two tours in Vietnam – 1966 and 1967 – and was wounded twice. He was awarded two Purple Hearts.
Although that happened nearly five decades ago and his life since had been immersed in OSU athletics – especially Buckeye football – he still was very much a marine. That was even the case when his health declined and the stroke left him on a cane with only one hand that really worked.
“I’d take him Christmas shopping and even after one of his serious bouts with cancer – when he had trouble walking – he’d see a serviceman in uniform and he’s always stop him,” Scott said.
“He’d never mention his own service, he’d just say, ‘Thank you so much for your service.’ And then he’d reach out with his one good hand and try to shake their hand.”
As Elaine explained late Sunday afternoon: “He was proud of the Marines … And he was proud he was a Marine.
“He’d stand every time he heard the Marine Hymn. He even had us celebrate the Marines’ birthday every year.
“I think it was like (November) 10th … We’d have a little party … with cake.”
That thought brought a quiet laugh from her.
Serving his country
As a young grade school boy in Sidney, Steve announced to their parents that he wanted to go to a military academy, Scott said.
And with an aunt paying the way, Steve enrolled at Howe Military Academy in Indiana as an eighth grader and stayed there through high school graduation.
Although a gifted student, he spent just a year at Hillsdale College in Michigan and then joined the Marines in what was the heart of the Vietnam War.
“He could have gotten a student deferment for four years, but he felt strongly about serving his country,” Scott said.
He knew the high stakes of his commitment, though, and had had a candid conversation with their parents, Scott said:
“He told Mom and Dad if two officers came to the door, he was dead. If one came, he was wounded.
“And then came that day when they saw a service car pull into our driveway and there were two uniformed officers inside. When they came and knocked at the door, the first thing out of my mother’s mouth was ‘Is he dead? Or, is he alive? Don’t tell me anything else.’
“They told her he was alive, but gravely wounded. He’ been hit by shrapnel in the back and it had blown a huge hole. You could see everything. It was pretty intense.”
Elaine said her husband told her little on the injury: “What he did say was that when he was recovering, there were three of them in there and their last names were Snapp, Crackle and Popp. I swear!”
Once he healed, Snapp took a second tour and was wounded again, though not as seriously as the first time.
After that he returned home, he enrolled at OSU and soon was writing his column “Snapshots” for The Lantern. That’s when football coach Woody Hayes took a liking to him.
It wasn’t because he was a sportswriter – Woody barely tolerated the pad-and-pen set – but because Snapp still was very much “semper fi.”
He showed his embrace of the Marines motto during a 1970 incident when the OSU campus was roiled in a war protest.
“Steve showed up in his (marines) uniform and with gas mask in hand, he made his way to The Oval to protect the American flag,” Elaine said.
Hayes was a military buff and that had to endear Snapp to him.
And at Tuesday’s wake, the first thing visitors will see at the funeral home, said Scott, is a photo of his brother and Woody together.
Over the years, Snapp – who went from an associate to head sports information director in 1987 and later an assistant athletics director – worked with four football coaches (Hayes, Earle Bruce, John Cooper and Jim Tressel) and for many years administered most of the other OSU sports, as well.
“He was a Buckeye through and through,” Elaine said.
The only thing he may have loved more were the Marines and, of course, his family.
“He was a man of his word,” Scott said. “When I think of him, I think class act, integrity, patriotism and a real sense of fight., He never gave up. As sick as he got, he never gave up.”
While Elaine said the only time she really heard Steve discuss his war experience was with a University of Alabama contemporary who was also a Vietnam vet, she said he did drift back to those days in his final hours while in hospice care.
Fading in and out, she said he began to say: “ ‘C’mon!… C’mon!’ I said, ‘Steve, where are we? Back in Vietnam?’ He said yes. He was trying to get everybody out.”
His obituary notes that he appreciated “a shined shoe and a good hamburger.”
“You didn’t touch his shoes, “ Elaine laughed. “They were shined perfectly and couldn’t have a scratch. It went back to his days in the military, I’m sure, and he taught each of the kids how to shine shoes.”
As for the burger: “A cheeseburger, with catsup … and American cheese.”
The obit also notes his love of dogs, especially his beloved malamute Maverick, who, Elaine said, is “a 168 pound monster … A gentle giant. He loved him so much and insisted he be at the funeral and he will.”
Steve actually planned much of his wake. The music he used to play when he drove the kids to school – songs like Roger Miller’s “Engine, Engine Number 9” and “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd,” and The Everly Brothers “Bird Dog” – will play in the background.
His marines uniform will be near the casket. There will be a color guard and a bugler will play Taps at the cemetery.
He wanted everything handled so Elaine and Scott and the rest of the family would have it easier now.
“He always looked out for everybody else,” Elaine said quietly. “… He never complained one day. Never. I did the complaining for both of us.”
Her voiced started to break and it took a few seconds before she could finish:
“The whole entire time, he told everybody, ‘I’m good. I’m good….Don’t worry… I’m good.’”
And he was.
Steve Snapp was the best.
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