‘Snuffy’ Smith remembered by those who knew him

Larry McGuire
Staff Writer

PUNXSUTAWNEY — A legend not only in the politics of Punxsutawney, but across the state of Pennsylvania, L. Eugene "Snuffy" Smith passed away over the weekend at the age of 97. State leaders and close friends took time to remember Snuffy, as he was known as a kind-hearted person who was always willing to go the extra mile.

Speaker of the Pennsylvania House Mike Turzai issued the following statement on the death of Smith, a former member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Snuffy Smith, whose legacy strongly lives throughout the Pennsylvania Capitol,” Turzai said. “Our hearts go out to his son, Sam and family."

"Sam (Smith), our former speaker of the House, followed in the footsteps of his dad by being elected to succeed him," Turzai added. "Snuffy will be greatly missed. He accomplished his mission as a son, a husband, a father, a business owner and a legislator who worked to make life better for his constituents and the citizens of our commonwealth.”

Prior to his election to the House, Smith served as mayor of Punxsutawney and was also a local business owner. He was elected to the House of Representatives in a special election on Feb. 19, 1963, and represented the 66th legislative district, which includes parts of Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties. After serving for 11 consecutive terms, Smith retired in 1986.

Smith served as an Army Air Force pilot in the 306th Bombardment Group during World War II. The 306th became one of the pioneer units involved in the air war in the European Theatre.

“We have lost one of our most ardent, passionate and effective voices," Turzai said. "His desire, dedication and determination to serve will live with me forever. May Snuffy’s memory be a blessing.”

Pennsylvania State Sen. Joe Scarnati, president Pro Tempore and longtime friend to Snuffy and Sam Smith said, "Snuffy was a leader, not only within our local community, but also across our commonwealth."

Scarnati pointed to Snuffy’s service as an accomplished World War II veteran who “recognized the importance of public service and has always been immensely deserving of our respect and gratitude. ... I greatly admired Snuffy’s commitment to fighting for what he believed in — especially when it came to advocating for the needs of rural Pennsylvania. Amy and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family," Scarnati stated.

Locally, Punxsutawney Borough Council President Larry Chenoga said he knew Snuffy for many years. "He was a wonderful person, I always made the time to stop and speak with him," Chenoga said. "I will miss him dearly. Snuffy was the kind of person who was never too busy in his life to stop and say hello and talk to you about any topic that you wanted to discuss.”

Punxsutawney Borough Mayor Richard Alexander concurred, saying that Snuffy was a very gracious and “one of the great leaders from rural Pennsylvania that was in search of equality.” Alexander said that he knew Snuffy for over 20 years and had many discussions with him about politics.

Bill Deeley, president of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle, said he knew Snuffy for 50 years. "He always had a open mind and saw the bright side to any project you discussed with him," Deeley said, adding that he was a fun guy. "A lot of people thought that he was a politician and a straight arrow; he was fun to play golf with. I belonged to the Weber Club with him. He was a very smart guy."

Deeley added that Snuffy was a good storyteller and that he and Fred Roberts would talk about World War II, where they were bomber pilots, and the different things they did during the war, reflecting on the trying times, but also the fun times they had too.

"He was one of the typical World War II vets that always talked about the positive things, not the hard times they endured," Deeley explained. "He's a happy man right now, because he's with his wife, Jean, which is where he wants to be."

Deeley added that Snuffy never belonged to the Groundhog Club, but he did participate with them quite often.

"As a state legislator, he fought for the rural community; he didn't let them send everything to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh," Deeley said. "He fought to get grants to get water piped into the rural communities." Deeley also noted that Snuffy worked well with politicians regardless of their political affiliation in order to make the most out of their opportunities to help others.
Deeley also pointed out that Snuffy didn’t let his age keep him from being very active in the community and his church. Pastor Joe Spack, Chestnut Grove Church, said that at 97, Snuffy was the oldest member of their church.

"He and Jean attended church until they were in a personal care home and she had some physical problems and couldn't attend all the time consistently," Spack explained. "They would come when the weather permitted; he still drove his car everywhere and was able to take care of himself."

Spack noted that Snuffy came to church every week, so long as the weather allowed for it. "He not only came to Sunday morning; in fact, just this past week before he passed away, he was at church on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night for Bible study," Spack said. "He came all the time, and he loved it."

Spack added that Snuffy and Jean had a heart for missions work. "They were constantly helping missionaries out and would have missionaries stay in their home that they supported around the world," Spack said.

All of those who were interviewed about Snuffy's life agreed that he had a big heart and helped anyone he could — when he was in the legislature and after he had retired from state government. Snuffy Smith will be missed.