Obituary of Marvis Virginia Reeder Snell
Marvis Virginia Reeder Snell was born January 1, 1924 in the Gillette Community, Manatee County, Florida. Her parents were Hiram Thomas (Tom) Reeder and Laila Elizabeth Richards Reeder. She died March 14, 2023 at her home in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was preceded in death by her husband, Jacob Randolph Snell (1923-2014).
The two met as freshmen at Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now Auburn University, in the fall of 1941. They married January 5, 1947, and had one son, Randolph Reeder Snell of St. Petersburg.
Marvis attended Palm View and Tallevast elementary schools, where her mother was principal, and graduated from Gillette Elementary School and Palmetto High School.
She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Foods and Nutritions from Auburn, where she was treasurer, vice president and president of the Home Economics Club; vice president of the Auburn Debate Council; and a member of Tau Kappa Alpha. She received a Diploma from Michael Reese Hospital School of Dietetics in Chicago, where she completed her year’s residency in dietetics. She later majored in music at Manatee Junior College.
Marvis was a wife, mother and businesswoman. She was a music teacher who taught piano and directed children and youth choirs at Tenth Street Baptist Church (Palmetto) and the First Baptist Church of Gillette, where she also served as organist for a number of years. She directed music for three years at the First Baptist Church of Parrish, Florida. Marvis was also a historian and author of three books of local history, two written with her husband.
Her first book, Testimony to Pioneer Baptists (1974), told the history of the First Baptist Church of Gillette. This pioneer church, founded in the late 1860s as Benevolence, was the first Baptist church south of Tampa Bay on Florida’s west coast. Her book was honored by the Florida Baptist Historical Society in 2006.
Marvis and Randolph researched and wrote ten years to complete The Gillette Cemetery, published in 2002. This book portrayed the origins and development of the pioneer Gillette community from the 1840s to the 21st century through the lives of people buried in its historic graveyard. They subsequently took the same approach in writing the history of the Mount Enon Community in Dale County Alabama, where Randolph grew up, publishing The Mount Enon Cemetery in 2009. At the time of his death in 2014, Randolph and Marvis were working on a memoir of his war years, based on letters he wrote almost daily to her during his time in service and early return to civilian life.
Marvis taught herself to play piano at age 14 after her father, a vegetable farmer, traded a load of pole beans to a Birmingham, Alabama wholesale buyer he had met at the Tampa Farmers Market. Although she estimates the Birmingham merchant got the better deal (the old upright even came without a stool), she learned well. Learning relatively late, and teaching herself, she became a wonderful and very patient music teacher for neighborhood children.
She was also a leader in church and civic activities over many decades. She taught and was director of Baptist Sunday school and training union programs, and was a member of the Florida Baptist State Mission Board. She served the Manatee County Piano Teachers Association as treasurer and president and the Bradenton Beethoven Club as vice president and president. She was a member of the Florida State Music Teachers Association, Gideon Auxiliary, the Manatee County Historical Society, Daughters of the American Revolution, the American Dietetics Association, the Bradenton Junior Women’s Club and the P.T.A.
Along with her husband and her two brothers, J.T. and Graham Reeder, she helped run Reeder Farms and Reeder Ranch and Dairy as those businesses expanded into beef, dairy, citrus, dirt and shell mining and eventually into aviation with the establishment of Airport Manatee in 1976. Many pilots knew her as she continued to run the airport office into her 80s.
Reeder Farms had been established by her parents when her schoolteacher mother, Laila, was offered only $85/month to continue teaching school as the Depression hit. Laila joined her husband working full time in agriculture; they raised vegetables and acquired property in northern Manatee and southern Hillsborough Counties. They were innovative tomato farmers and family business entrepreneurs, Laila managing crews in the field as well as maintaining books and payroll for the growing enterprise. Their oldest son, J.T., joined the business as did, eventually, Marvis and her husband Randolph, and her younger brother Graham. (Their father, Tom, died early of melanoma at age 52, in 1949. Laila died of cancer in 1971.)
For most of her life Marvis lived in the Gillette community. In 2006 she and Randolph moved into a retirement condominium in Bradenton and following his death she moved to St. Petersburg to be near her son. During these moves, she kept pots of the amaryllis flowers she cultivated her whole life, from the time she and her mother salvaged bulbs from a field previously rented by an amaryllis farmer in the 1920s. She continued to enjoy seeing new combinations of colors that came from seeds, a product of her careful cross pollination, when the new plants bloomed two to three years later.
She tried to extend a kindness to someone every day, even if it were just a smile and heartfelt hello. She began every day saying “This is the day the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” She continued to play hymns and take joy in music until the very end of her life. She read a daily newspaper and enjoyed non-fiction books, including autobiographies by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, in her later years. She remained interested in public affairs, voted, and encouraged others to vote. In this she continued her lifelong dedication to making the world a kinder, better place. She will be missed by all who knew her and her influence will live on through those she touched.
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