September 25, 2003


Dorothy, left, Deacon and Shonda Sneed


Friends plan project for local resident now in hospital—

Raising a roof to help a friend

People in Yellow Springs love Deacon Sneed. Though quiet and unassuming, his friends say, he is hard to miss.

“Once you see this man, it makes a lasting impression,” his friend Ron Robinson said. “You just don’t see that many 400-pound men who are that kind and that outgoing, always smiling and always joking.”

“He is a very big man, one of those quiet giants,” another friend, Pam Davis, said. “He is one of the most gentle, loving human beings I have ever known to walk the earth.”

Deacon Sneed is also the kind of man Yellow Springs residents are thrilled to be able to help, by following the example that he and others like him have set.

Right now is their big chance.

Sneed, who lives with and cares for his elderly mother, Dorothy, was in the process of having the family’s roof repaired when in mid-August he suddenly was hospitalized and diagnosed with stage-four liver cancer. With Dorothy in poor health as well, the roof became less of a priority — until water began running down the walls and into the Sneeds’ living room.

When Davis heard what had happened, she contacted some of her friends and they contacted some of their friends, and soon people were calling Davis to ask how they could help. The group decided they could support the Sneeds the most by easing the peripheral worries of a leaky roof and allowing the family to focus on Deacon’s health.

That is how a roof raising was born, one that keeps on growing.

“They’ll be fighting to keep people off that roof,” Davis said. “Everybody wants to help.”

The group plans to meet this Saturday, Sept. 27, at 10 a.m., at 633 Keystone Court, for a day’s work, followed by a potluck at Donna Hopkins’s home on Jacoby Road.

Friends are collecting construction supplies for a job that experienced builders expect to cost over $700, which organizers called a conservative estimate considering the interior damage the water may have caused. The volunteers are accepting donations through the Yellow Springs Credit Union, under account No. 56596-H0-01, to help purchase supplies and equipment. They also hope to collect as much money as possible to help pay for unknown medical expenses the Sneeds may incur.

According to those who know him, Sneed has been a charitable heavyweight with somewhat limited means, and yet an always unlimited heart. He was one of the first players on the YSHS football team when it started in the 1970s, and since then he has continued to support the community’s youth, partly through coaching and partly by just getting to know them.

Sneed has been known to scare off disruptive out-of-towners hanging around the Corry Street parking lot by simply showing up and stepping out of his car with a stern glare. Davis said her son, Giovanni, saw folks scatter at the very sight of him.

Local resident Jim Prether said that he met Sneed while playing pool at the Dayton Street Gulch years ago and that his jovial and generous spirit reminded him of the late Gabby Mason, who owned a restaurant at the corner of Xenia Avenue and Corry Street. Gabby used to draw people together at his restaurant or his Stafford Street home with his popular barbecued ribs, French fries, coleslaw and other satiating comforts, Prether said.

“Gabby always said, ‘It’s nice to be nice,’” he said. “He could be around some bad dudes and still demonstrate that you could be nice in the face of violence.”

The same people organizing the construction project, who include Deborah Benning, Donna Hopkins, Terry Lawson, Harold “Dunie” Hamilton, Davis, Robinson and Prether, said that they learned how to care for one another while hanging out with Gabby, back in the days when the friends got together as part of Help Us Make A Nation at what they described as the poor people’s country club in a cabin just outside of town. They met regularly, like churchgoers, to play, sing, eat Gabby’s treats and drink together, and they committed themselves to doing good for themselves and for others across racial and economic lines.

These friends said their efforts to help someone in need helps them as well. “We get this wonderful feeling out of it, we’re not getting paid, but we’re feeling good,” Prether said.

Good people do good things and leave a lasting impression that their successors use to continue their cause after they have passed, Benning said. There is always someone in town who could use some help but can’t get it in the traditional ways, Hopkins said. Because of people like Gabby Mason, Sneed and now these friends, Yellow Springs, they said, is the kind of place where unity can become a strength.

“There’s some people out there that don’t have the big bucks, but they give of themselves and it holds us all together,” Davis said. “I consider them our angels.”

Deacon Sneed’s sister, Shonda, said that Sneed appears to be doing better and may be able to come home in a few weeks. She expressed deep gratitude for local residents who have allowed her family to concentrate fully on helping her brother through his illness.

“I think it’s a blessing from the Lord, I really do,” she said.

It appears there are quite a few angels in Yellow Springs.

—Lauren Heaton