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He was Te Anau’s adopted son – an
American who visited Fiordland on a
trout fishing trip in 1973 and loved it so
much he returned 67 times. Kent Snyder
died last month, aged 87, at his home
at Glendale, Los Angeles. His death is
being just as keenly felt here, as friends
remember the American bloke with a big
heart, simply known as “Kiwi Kent”.
It was a guided fly-fishing trip that first brought Kent
Snyder to Te Anau. It was a place he had been keen to
visit for some R&R during the war when he served in the
marines but it was not to be. Nevertheless, he held to the
ambition that he would get there one day.
Born and raised in Strawberry Point, Iowa, Kent met his
future wife Lynn in a taxi the day before he shipped out
to war. They corresponded for two and-a-half years and
married a few weeks after his discharge.
A certified shorthand reporter and court stenographer,
Kent went on to build a successful court reporting
business that at its height was the largest deposition firm
in the United States with a staff of around 8000.
Loving the environment, the fishing and the friends he
made, New Zealand soon became a favourite holiday
destination, with his visits sometimes three times a year.
He bought two units in Te Anau, which he converted
into one larger one and also imported an old US Postal
Service Jeep. Painted white, with a kiwi on each door
and fitted with the number plate “US KIWI”, it made him
something of a local icon.
Some of the first friends he made in Fiordland were
local pilots who used to ferry him to his favourite fishing
spots. The professional friendships very quickly became
personal and his friends’ children soon reaped the
benefits – spoiled with gifts of American “candy” each
time he’d return.
Kathryn Deaker was one of them.
“He used to tell me he would bring me “candy” from
America, and I expected him to pull out huge clouds of
candy-floss,” she said.
“When I visited America in 1990 to see this amazing land,
Kent and Lyn welcomed me with open arms and looked
after me as one of their own. I will never forget their
generosity and kindness.”
His passion for New Zealand could not be ignored back in
America. Just as youngsters here heard his tales of a far-
off place where roads were six-lanes wide yet wild deer
still wandered into his yard, his grandchildren in America
were regaled with equally vivid stories of New Zealand.
The visitor who
His beloved 1979 Mercedes convertible bore the number
plate “TE ANAU” and Des Osborne recalled Kent telling
him of the many times people had called out to him, as
he drove along, that they had visited Milford Sound.
Another friend Russell Baker said getting that number
plate approved was not straightforward.
“He had a hell of a job getting that through because the
Yankee authorities thought it might have been a swear
word,” he said.
His generosity was legendary. Bill Black was one of
the many Te Anau people who stayed at his California
home and spoke fondly of his generosity and friendship.
Another, Dick Deaker, said Kent would always be there
to meet someone from Te Anau off the plane and his
hospitality was wonderful.
“He was always a generous man and a very friendly guy.
He got on well with everyone.”
Rarely a year went by that “Hotel Snyder” did not host at
least one Kiwi guest.
He was also a prolific letter writer. He could type at
around 100 words a minute and his Fiordland friends
would receive letters, by post, as often as once a
fortnight. He spurned e-mail, preferring the old-fashioned
method. Old-fashioned courtesies were a hallmark of his
personality and he was a “gentleman” in the true sense
of the word.
On the occasion of his 40th
visit to New Zealand Kent
brought his entire family for a two-week holiday where
they were able to see and understand why the country
was so magical to him. On his 50th
visit Air New Zealand –
the only airline he ever used for his travel to New Zealand
put on a party for him in Te Anau.
He was also noted for never boarding an aeroplane
without a coat and tie.
His last trip to New Zealand was just over two years ago.
He had just sold his Te Anau property but was still as
keen on fishing as ever. Des Osborne took him out and
noticed then that he had slowed a little from his last visit
he had a bit of trouble with fences and stony river beds.
But, then, he was 84...
Kent had planned one more trip to New Zealand and
talked about it in his last letter to Des – a letter received
the same day that he learned of Kent’s death.
But it wasn’t to be. Kent Snyder died peacefully at his
Glendale home on February 8.
Photos: Des Osborne
ABOVE: Ken Snyder with his distinctive ex-US Postal
Jeep, registration US KIWI, a familiar sight in Te Anau.
LEFT: In America he had an equally identifiable
vehicle, a Mercedes convertible, registration TE ANAU.
BELOW: Ken Snyder’s Los Angeles home was fondly
dubbed “Hotel Snyder” by his family owing to the
regular string of New Zealand guests who stayed.
Edwin Kent Snyder: December 7, 1921 – February 8, 2009
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