I first formally met Warder “Snuggy” Steward when we were both students at Guy Park Avenue Elementary School. I last saw him a few years after graduating from college in the mid seventies. A long time has passed since we last spoke. Still, his death on July 15, 2015 jolted me.
My best memories of Snuggy remain crystal clear despite them being formed so many years ago. I remember his smile first and foremost along with his distinctive laugh. I know “lit up a room” is a cliche but its one that makes too perfect a description to not use in Snuggy’s case. He had the sort of magnetic personality that didn’t just light up a room, it lit up an entire school and neighborhood.
I remember Snuggy running. It wasn’t just that he was physically fast, this guy honestly glided. Since I was slow and ran heavy on my feet like an elephant, I was always amazed at Snug’s elegant long stride. My sneakers used to wear out before I grew out of their size. I bet Snuggy could have worn the same pair his entire life if his feet didn’t grow.
Next thing I remember about Snuggy was his kindness. It extended to everyone. Add to that his ability to hang comfortably with every type of crowd and you more easily understand why I think he was one of the most universally liked and respected Amsterdamians of my generation.
Its impossible to think of Snuggy and not see him playing drums. Whenever I hear the Marching Ram drum cadence I think of Snuggy with that ornate hat cocked at a weird angle on his head, setting the proud tone of a proud group of musicians. And I hated school dances but whenever Snuggy’s band, “Collector’s Item” played one you simply had to go because you didn’t want to miss the chance to hear him and see him play on a full set of drums.
When I was in high school I had a job pumping gas at Joe Montuoro’s old Sunoco Station on Amsterdam’s West Main Street and Snuggy lived almost directly across the street before his family moved up to McClellan.Often at dinnertime, Snuggy would run over to the station to buy a few bottles of soda. He would always stick around long enough to shoot the breeze and we’d catch up on things.
His Dad was a wonderful man and one of my favorite customers at the gas station. I had a secret childhood crush on his beautiful sister Donna and his older brother Ronnie used to make me laugh as much as any other human being has ever been able to.
I had no idea he was gravely ill. In fact, when I noticed Warder’s name was on Facebook. I’m the kind of FB user who doesn’t like to ask people I haven’t seen in a long time to be my friend because I think I might be annoying them. I figure if they want to reconnect with me they’d ask me. Now that he’s gone, I so wish I had sent a friend request to Snuggy just so we could shoot the breeze one more time.