Jason Worley Snyder turned 100 years old on August 4, 2010. He answered the question.
“It feels like you’re old,” he said.
His birthday was celebrated with his family at lunch and with two dozen of his church friends at an afternoon party. He also was honored with a presentation by the Shriners and a gift from his Sunday School class in his name for disadvantaged children to attend the circus. Dozens of cards and phone calls poured in during the week.
With a sharp mind and good health, his only complaint is that he’s slowing down and that he can no longer see to read which was a lifelong passion. His memory amazes younger family and friends, and he continues to discuss politics or national news which he always has followed.
He has lived in his own apartment in Colonial Hills Retirement Home in Johnson City, TN, since choosing a rental there when his wife Frances was first hospitalized and later needed full time care. Selling their home on Holly Hill Road in the meantime, he appreciates the availability of high quality care, laundry and cleaning services as well as hotel-atmosphere in the dining room for delicious meals. He enjoys the exercise room and entertainment which is often provided for the residents. At the age of 99, he borrowed his brother’s Santa Clause suit for the home’s Christmas party where he distributed to the staff the gift money which he had collected for them from residents.
Jason was born in Doe Valley, Johnson County, to Roy Mieneyard (sometimes referred to as R M) and Mary Alice Snyder who lived to the ages of 102 ½ and 93, respectively. R M and Alice married when she was 16 and he 21. Their 77 years of marriage produced 10 children. Jason’s remaining younger siblings who all live in the Johnson City, Elizabethton, Valley Forge or Doe Valley areas of Tennessee are Hazel, 93; Ben, 85; Floyd, 82; Myrtle, 79; John, 74. Deceased are Wanda, Watt, Dudley and Maywood.
The Snyder family lived on a 50-acre hillside farm, across the river from Valley Forge, where Jason said there was absolutely no level ground. He remembers picking blackberries to sell for 10 cents a gallon. His dad and the younger children picked as many as 25 gallons a day, and his job was to walk to the store to sell them. Then they were shipped to Johnson City via a narrow-gauge train which ran from Boone and stopped in Valley Forge. Corn, hay and wheat also were grown. Jason remembers taking the wheat to the mill to have it ground into flour and then having a dozen 24-pound bags stacked in the house. He remembers his mother once giving a bag of flour to a church family who had nothing else to eat.
Jason’s dad borrowed $500 to send him and his sister Hazel to college. He graduated on his birthday August 4, 1939, from East Tennessee State, which was then a teachers college, with a B. S. and a four-year teaching certificate. Later he obtained what was called the permanent certificate and taught for five years in Valley Forge Elementary and Hampton High School.
His first car was a 1929 A-Model which his dad purchased for the boys by trading land, although they sometimes rode to college with a friend who drove from Roan Mountain. When he bought his own first car it was a Chevrolet Business Coupe.
Joining the Army in June 1942, Jason traveled to Mississippi for basic training. During his term of service he was stationed in Texas, Utah and then in Casablanca. He recalls cattle cars transporting the troops for four or five days to Tunisia. Not seeing combat, his job was assigning work details in the orderly room in the 12th Air Force Service command. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant before his discharge in Kentucky in December 1945.
After the Army, Jason found work in Elizabethton at the Veterans Administration (VA) assisting with employment of veterans.
He married Viola Wilson in 1947 in the living room of her family’s farm home in Doe Valley. His sister-in-law Zola Snyder introduced them where Viola was teaching in Bristol.
Jason and Viola lived in Knoxville for five years, where he continued his work with the VA. They were proud of their fine brick house with a tile roof and double brick garage which then sold for $14,000.
His family always called him Worley. Then the government use of first names carried over to his social life where he was called Jason. He transferred to the VA headquarters in Washington. His job there was in paperwork management with the task of reducing forms. He then worked for the U. S. Navy where he was responsible for visiting shore facilities to review their following of guidelines sent from the main office. Those travels took him frequently to such locations as Norfolk; Oxnard; Charleston, SC; Brunswick, Maine; Bermuda and even as far as Adak and Kodiak, Alaska.
He and Viola lived on Arlington Ridge Road in Arlington in 1954, then moved to Crestwood Drive in Alexandria.
His “angel on earth” — first love of his life – Viola died in 1973. She was in fragile health for many years, retired from teaching, and Jason enjoyed cooking and caring for their duties at home to make life easier for her.
One of his proudest lifetime achievements was serving as lodge master of the George Washington Masonic Lodge in Alexandria in 1979. His photograph is on the wall of that impressive structure. He had joined the Masons when in Elizabethton, and he and Viola were heavily involved in lodge activities in the Washington area. Continuing his lifelong loyalty as a Mason, he was featured in the Johnson City Press in early 2009, for his plan to distribute the lodge newspaper to residents of the retirement home.
Jason married Frances Shoun Coates in 1980. She was also a Tennessee native, and their families had been friends for many years. He retired, and they bought a lovely home in Johnson City where she worked in the library at ETSU for several years. They traveled frequently, never hesitant to get in their big Cadillac or on a plane – to such destinations as Washington, DC, Florida, Myrtle Beach, Russia, London – and enjoyed spending time with family and many friends as well as Frances’ daughter Sandra and Sandra’s son Brandon.
Jason and Frances attended Central Baptist Church in Johnson City, although he maintained his membership in National City Christian Church in Washington, DC. It was an impressive church home where he served as deacon or elder for 25 years. During the years that President Lyndon Johnson and his family also attended that church, Lady Bird and the President often sat beside Jason’s wife Viola.
Jason’s friends and family refer to him with respect and admiration. He’s soft-spoken, kind and generous, enjoying remembering his family activities and complimenting their strong qualities, yet always reticent in talking about himself.