Road naming honors late Tom Schneider
Cranberry Eagle
Written by:
March 27, 2013
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Tom Schneider

ZELIENOPLE — Tom Schneider touched the lives of so many folks in the area.

Whether it was working with youths in baseball or dedicating his time and efforts at the Zelienople Community Park, bringing a smile to a child’s face at Christmas or helping to raise funds for numerous organizations, Schneider was there for them.

Schneider, 65, of Lancaster Township died Oct. 11 after losing a battle with cancer.

The community will gather at 10:30 a.m. Saturday to honor Schneider for his tireless work for the park and to dedicate a road in his honor. The event will be held just before the borough’s Easter festival.

The Zelienople Park Board will honor him by naming the upper road of the park Tom Schneider Circle and the access road between the shelters on top of the hill Tuck Lane. Those attending are asked to meet where the road T’s as travelers start up the hill in the park.

The Friends of the Park Easter Spring Festival will follow the ceremony from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Lion’s Club egg hunt starts at 11 a.m. with the festival immediately following the hunt.

There also will be games, inflatables, balloon artists, a face painter, fire truck, pictures with the Easter Bunny, pickle ball and youth tennis demonstrations. Food will be available at the festival.

Schneider’s wife, Carol, talked of her late husband’s love of the community and of helping others.

“He was a great man who always put others above himself,” she said. “He was friendly, extremely loyal and always smiling and happy. He loved to tease people and seemed to find a way into the hearts of everybody he knew.

“Most people describe him as having a twinkle in his eyes and a big smile on his face,” said Carol. “He is missed deeply by so many. We all have been so blessed to have him in our lives.”

Schneider had been named the 2012 recipient of the Zelienople Rotary Club’s Tuillio “Doc” A. Viola Service Above Self Non-Rotarian Award.

Schneider served about 20 years on the board of directors for the Zelienople Park on East Beaver Street. He also for 13 years played Santa Claus in the Santa House at the Four Corners Park.

One of his passions was youth baseball. He volunteered with the Zelienople Baseball Association from 1977 to 2010, coached American Legion baseball for 20 years and served as Seneca Valley Baseball Boosters president for 18 years.

He helped with the construction of what eventually came to be known as the Tom Schneider Baseball building on the campus of the Seneca Valley School District.

He was a member of the Kiwanis Club, a Cub Scout master for 10 years, and helped with fundraising efforts for the Lions Clubs, Seneca Valley basketball and football boosters.

Schneider also served as the Seneca Valley band booster president and trip chairman and helped on Seneca Valley’s high school musical set construction for 16 years.

He had been the owner of Tom Schneider Home Improvement and Repair.

He and his wife have five children, Thomas J. Schneider Jr. and his wife, Jolene, of Seattle, Wash., Brock W. Schneider of the South Side, Nicholas Hewlett and his wife, Stacy, of Harmony, Ryan Hewlett of Lancaster and Robin Hewlett of Colombia, South America.

“He was strong, confident and extremely capable. He was so invincible in fact, that although I knew he was very ill, it seemed impossible for the cancer to defeat him,” said Carol. “He had such a great attitude every day that he was going to treatment and dealing with the pain and side effects.

Carol said he loved animals, children and his two granddaughters, Gabby and Elsa.

“When Gabby was little, he baby- sat her. He took her to work with him, estimating jobs for his home improvement business, visiting vendors, going to the bank. They were quite a dynamic duo,” said Carol.

“He had a way of connecting with people. His customers frequently became his good friends. They trusted him because he was fair, kind and extremely truthful. He noticed small details about people and what they liked and what made them tick.”

Schneider frequently stopped on his way home to visit friends, check in on elderly or folks he hadn’t seen for awhile.

When Schneider learned he was sick, he made certain that everything related to his family’s house, business, etc. was taken care of. He spent quality time with his granddaughters and enjoyed every possible moment. He was generous and loving.

“He is missed by so many. I was truly blessed to have him in my life,” said Carol.

Mary Hess, who served on the Zelienople Park Board with Schneider, said that Tom was burly and gruff, but would melt at the sight of a child.

“He not only gave so much to the park and many other organizations, he was Zelienople’s Santa for many years. He was always the first to volunteer or offer to assist with a project.”

He was so dedicated to the park, Hess said that even during the height of his illness, he would not miss a park board meeting.

“He was obviously in pain, but insisted on staying through the meeting. He had so many things that he wanted to do, his last words to me were, ‘I thought I would have more time,’” she said.

“He was so frustrated that he was not able to finish the amphitheater project that we had begun the year before. He would show up at the site to see how things were going, he appeared to be so angry at his own body for getting weaker.”

And later, Hess said it was so difficult for her to have a construction dilemma and not be able to turn to him. He died before the project was completed.

He was very direct, he let you know what he was thinking, and it was refreshing to know exactly where you stood with him. There was no pretense; he had an objective and he saw it through.

“Tom was a big jokester; he never lost his sense of humor all the way to the end. (Zelienople borough manager) Don Pepe and I went to see him, hours really, before he passed. When we walked into his room, he took one look at me and said, ‘Do you think you could have dressed up to see me?’” He smiled, though weak; he wanted to talk about the park and the amphitheater. So, we did,” said Hess.

“He was bigger than life ... a gruff teddy bear with a big dimply smile and a huge heart. And, I miss him, and his wisdom and guidance,” she said.

Pepe said he has to smile when he thinks of Tom. “He would literally give you the shirt off his back. He gave so much to the community and nobody knew about it,” he said. He was the type of person, if he really liked you, he gave you the most grief,” joked Pepe. “And people enjoyed it. He was a wonderful guy.

“He was his own man. He really believed in what he thought was right and what actions should be taken,” said Pepe. “While he listened to others to get opinions, once he had made up his mind he was confident in his position. You always knew where you stood with Tom. He was quite clear in his opinion and his actions. He was also true to his word. I liked that a lot.”