In a room full of residents at Silver Creek Senior Living in South Hill, Marvin Snyder shared the slightly gruesome story of a case he helped solve at the Tacoma Police Department more than five decades ago.
“The first job I had, the first case, they brought me two arms,” Snyder said as he sat beside a cake celebrating his 100th birthday. “They found this man in a river that had been dead, they figured, for a month or so, and he had no identification on him, and they wanted to know who he was.”
Snyder took it upon himself to cut off the prints of the dead man’s fingers, press them onto his own fingers, and roll the prints into paper printer ink to get a classification.
Sure enough, the man’s fingerprints were found in department files.
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“The detectives wanted me to tell them who he was — and I did. I was pretty happy to do that,” Snyder finished to applause from the room.
Tacoma Police Chief Don Ramsdell, who was there to recognize Snyder for his service to the department, admitted, “I read that in his file, but I wasn’t going to bring it up.”
Snyder’s family, residents of Silver Creek Senior Living, members of the Tacoma Police Department, Sen. Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup and Rep. Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup, gathered Friday to celebrate Snyder’s birthday.
A hundred years ago, on Jan. 4, 1919, Snyder was born in a small town in Minnesota. As a child, he enjoyed playing baseball and other sports.
Snyder met his wife, Wilma, as a teenager in Minnesota. They married in 1943 and had three children together: Charlene, Sonja and Tim. Now, Snyder has six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Wilma passed away in January 2014.
After high school, Snyder joined the U.S. Navy and served during World War II.
Snyder was a crew member on the USS Jouett, a Navy destroyer, wrote Carl Vest in a 2018 Silver Creek Silver Living newsletter. Snyder’s job was to focus the destroyer’s guns on targets.
On May 17, 1943, the destroyer helped sink a German submarine, and Snyder remembers German soldiers “lining up on the deck after being captured.”
Snyder moved to the Sound Sound area after landing a job typing up calls with the Tacoma Police Department in 1946, eventually moving on to the Traffic Division, then the Identification and Records Division, where he stayed until retirement in 1974. From there, he traveled the country with his wife, visiting 45 out of 50 states within six months.
“When we saw something we thought would be interesting, we went and saw it,” he said.
A golfer, Snyder worked at Meadow Park Golf Course for a time, enabling him to play for free.
He’s been a resident at Silver Creek Senior Living for nine years, where he enjoys playing bingo, blackjack and is captain of the facility’s bean bag baseball team.
“He’s doing good,” said Tim Snyder, Snyder’s son. “He really likes his activities. He’s going all the time, living here.”
In 2018, Snyder participated in the Honor Flight to Washington D.C., where he was honored for his service and was able to see the World War II Memorial.
“We would walk down the middle of a big building, and there would be clapping for all get-out on both sides of us,” Snyder said.
Snyder never expected to live to 100. Asked if there’s a secret to getting there, he pointed out that he never drank a beer in his life.
Snyder was given his former Tacoma Police Department badges and a chief’s hat as a gift for his birthday from the department.
“We never lose sight of those who served. We want to make sure we can honor him in a meaningful way,” Ramsdell said.