Willard Snyder Honored with Awards for Service to Our Community
May 23, 2022
May 18 was no ordinary day for 17 very extraordinary people.
Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services organized the 22nd annual “Tribute to Unsung Heroes” award presentation. This event honored 17 older Lehigh County residents who displayed exceptional generosity with their time and talents to enhance the lives of others throughout their communities.
In 1965, then-President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Older Americans Act, declaring May Older American Month.
The theme for this year’s nominees was “Age My Way.”
Guests were welcomed by Lehigh County Office of Aging and Adult Services, Executive Director, Clayton Reed Jr. Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Aging Robert Torres gave opening remarks. Both men presented certificates and citations to each recipient.
Willard A. Snyder, former President and Chairman Emeritus for New Tripoli Bank, was among those honorees nominated as an Unsung Hero.
In hand with his new bride Lucille in the late 1950’s, Willard A. Snyder migrated from his native Carbon County across the Blue Mountain to the New Tripoli area of Lynn Township. While it was a short journey by today’s standards, this young man, fluent in Pennsylvania German, blended quickly with the tightly knit locals, also mostly German, and with the name Snyder, the door opened to their fellowship and ancestry.
With a degree in Business Education, Willard began as a teacher, quickly moving into the world of the local trustworthy banker, eventually wearing the hat of President and CEO of the New Tripoli Bank. The well-earned title of Board Member or President or Treasurer or Association Director attached his name in more than a half dozen banking associations throughout Pennsylvania. In the community, he replicated these leadership roles with the Ebenezer Church Consistory, various Lynn Township Boards, Community Fire Company of New Tripoli and founding President of the Northwestern Lehigh Educational Foundation. All these contacts, along with being the Father of 3 active sons, nurtured Willard’s developing passion for absorbing and preserving local history. In 2000, Willard teamed with a few other locals, including his late friend and avid artifacts collector, Carl D. Snyder, in creating the Lynn Township Historical Society, serving as President or Treasurer for many terms, and later expanding to include neighboring Heidelberg Township.
Willard Snyder was the leader; the originator and hands-on promoter of the many to date accomplishments of the Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society. Instrumental in developing LHHS’s permanent museum/library in the old New Tripoli Bank, Willard and his team also enjoyed a well-deserved working relationship with Lynn Township officials and community leaders to become part of the much-anticipated rebirth of the previously widely known Ontelaunee (amusement) Park in New Tripoli, dating back to 1929, sadly later abandoned. Restored as a recreational space, Willard enjoined the local historical society in creating “Pioneer Village” as a historical and educational treasure in the Park, now home to the relocation or re-creation of these important local structures:
- Zeisloff House log cabin from its original site where many family members were massacred during the French and Indian War.
- Early frontier Fort Everett, replica of the nearby Blue Mountain forts established by Ben Franklin.
- An 1800’s bank barn, generally credited solely to Willard’s acquisition and reconstruction directives
- The “Tripoli” Train Station replica through which the “Berksy” hauled potatoes and students throughout Berks and Lehigh Counties.
Willard was likewise a major player in establishing the Park’s annual October “Pioneer Festival” recreating early frontier life with costumed re-enactors.
Willard Snyder has truly dedicated his life and many personal resources to his love of local history. You will find his name engraved on the plaque in Allentown’s Liberty Bell Museum as a participant in the Bicentennial reenactment of the original 1776 Liberty Bell Trek between Philadelphia and Allentown, commemorating the rescue of the bells of Philadelphia, including our symbolic Liberty Bell, to safety in Allentown. Subsequent treks found Willard and others honoring local farmer Frederick Leaser who contributed his wagons to the 1776 trek.
Willard announced and led the restoration of the Leaser Family gravesite in Lynn Township from an overgrown wildlife refuge to an annually renewed public memorial with Old Glory flying overhead.
Willard Snyder was also recently recognized by the Liberty Bell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution as their 2022 National Historic Preservation Award-winner for his contributions to preserving the history of Lehigh County as it relates to the American Revolution and the founding of our country.
Willard has dedicated his life to preserving the history of New Tripoli the surrounding areas, and the Pennsylvania Dutch culture. The Lynn-Heidelberg Historical Society was established to preserve the history of the community dating to the early 1700's. Mr. Snyder served as a founding member of LHHS, President for many years, and is still actively involved in its work. He was active in the reenactment of the 1776 trek of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia to Allentown in 1976 and its subsequent treks. These treks also honored Frederick Leaser, a past resident of the area whose wagons were used to haul the Liberty Bell to Allentown when it was evacuated from Philadelphia.
Mr. Snyder has devoted his time, energy, and personal resources to enhancing the mission of the Historical Society. Among the Society's achievements over the past twenty years are the following:
- Restoring the family gravesite of the Leaser family.
- Moving the Zeisloft House from its original site to the Pioneer Village at Ontelaunee Park. The Zeislofts were one of the early families residing in the area who lost many family members to the massacre by the American Indians during the French and Indian War.
- Construction of Fort Everett in Pioneer Village at Ontelaunee Park as a replica of one of the forts established by Benjamin Franklin along the Blue Mountain, which served to provide security to the area during the French and Indian War.
Pennsylvania has such a rich history in our country—from its earliest Dutch settlements through the American Revolution—with so many battles, especially Valley Forge, and the pivotal role Philadelphia played in our founding, all the way to ringing the Liberty Bell, despite its unfortunate "ending" in 1846. Willard Snyder believed it was his duty to help preserve all of this storied history.
These pieces were originally published in the Lehigh Valley Press and the program booklet for the Daughters of the American Revolution's Award Ceremony for National Historic Preservation 2022.