Vandalia donor Claude Snyder is a fireplug of a man, a short but tough, lifetime ironworker who helped stretch steel across the skyline of Dayton and the Miami Valley.  He mentioned he will turn 90 in April as his friends at Community Blood Center thanked him for his 400th lifetime blood donation.  Perhaps it was to explain why tears welled in the eyes of this man of iron.

Claude and his wife Mary visited the Dayton CBC Donor Center three days after Christmas to donate together.  For Mary, it was her 117th donation.  They will be married 65 years in May and have three sons, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“I feel great,” Claude said and then leveled his gaze as he added, “Let me tell you something. The Lord has smiled on me.  I don’t know why but he has blessed me in ways beyond words.”

CBC Collections Services Director Kay Ollech has known the Synders for decades and wanted to help honor Claude’s 400th donation milestone.

“He gives in a whole lot of ways more than giving blood,” said Kay.  Claude is a Mason Covenant General, Knights of the York Cross of Honor, and volunteers at Polk Grove United Church of Christ.

“He’s just a good guy,” said Kay. Claude had to blink back the tears again when she turned to him and said, “Think of all the people you’ve helped.”

“I’ve been so fortunate,” said Claude. “Here I am about to be 90 and still giving blood. I know you go downhill.”

It’s true that both Claude and Mary don’t donate as frequently and are more cautious about allowing more time between donations.  With that in mind, Claude has changed from his long-time routine of donating platelets and plasma, and instead reached his milestone with a whole blood donation.

“I got him into apheresis in the 80’s,” said Kay. “We were still using the two-arm procedure. The platelets were only good for 24 hours and we had to call him in to donate, and it was a four-hour procedure.”

Claude never complained.  He earned his grit growing up in a family of nine in the Appalachian village of Wellsville, Ohio on the Ohio River.  The village was known for its foundries for steamboat machinery, then brick-making machinery.

“I was fortunate,” Claude said of his childhood.  “Our whole family was fortunate.”

Claude was 23 when he became an ironworker and helped erect buildings for 38 years. “We were always building something,” he said.  “I can’t remember most of the buildings in downtown Dayton that I worked on.”

He retired in ’87. “My only injury was when my big toe got smashed,” he said.

He began building his legacy as a blood donor at a young age as well. “We had a bunch of us in Masons, we got together and came down here as a group,” he said. “We had a Vandalia group that gave regularly. There were five or six of us and we called ourselves ‘the Vandalia Mafia!’”

There were hugs all around after Claude’s donation, and warm greetings from different generations of donors as Claude and Mary sat in the Donor Café.  Blood donors are a special family that Claude has come to know, and they honored him as a proud patriarch.  There were no tears then, just smiles.


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