S: Bernice "Johnnie" Snyder & Linda Rae Rackley: A Tribute
1: Bernice "Johnnie" Snyder & Linda Rae Rackley A Tribute By LoyRackley August 28th, 2010
3: Bernice "Johnnie" Snyder
4: She was born Bernice Helen Vandries - the youngest of 2 brothers and 1 sister. Her parents, Henry and Marie, made the journey from Belgium and took great pride in their heritage. Unfortunately, tragedy struck early in her family, taking from them her mother and eldest brother, Maurice. Her older sister, Annie, took on the role of mom. Brother Al was only too happy to let her enjoy being the baby of the family. As a teenager, she took an interest in fashion. She loved the trends and discovered an appreciation for style. After graduating from North Hollywood High School she began working at Nancy's, an upscale clothing store in Hollywood and loved it. She was learning all there was to know about fashion and the fashion industry. This...was her dream. She then began dating her future husband, the boy next door. Ray Snyder was a tall, handsome, artistic man who wanted to see the world. He just swept her off her feet. Their love bloomed into quite the romance. It was he who gave her the nickname "Johnnie." | Bernice "Johnnie" Snyder
7: Ray gave everybody a nickname, it was his way of personalizing his relationship with you. One evening while playing cards and slinging bourbon and sevens with his pals, Bernice snuck into the room, tucked her hair under one of their hats, sat at the table and pretended to be one of the guys. The seat had been occupied by their friend Johnny. It wasn't until she raised her head and spoke that the guys realized it was, in fact, Bernice playing a little prank. She was around the age of 16 when the name "Johnnie" became her calling card. Ray and Johnnie married and had 3 girls: Carole, Linda and Shelley. After 14 years of marriage, they realized that they were, in fact, complete opposites. Although separated, Ray remained the love of her life, just from a distance. She and her 3 girls moved back to her father's. The property near the Sportsman's Lodge on Ventura Blvd. and Coldwater Canyon had two homes, one for them and the other for Annie, husband Jeff and their little mieces, as Aunt Gertie would say.
8: At 34, she was a single mom raising her 3 girls. She wasn't much for "pearls of wisdom," but she instilled in her daughters a sense of right and wrong. They were Belgian and Catholic and that was it. She led by example. When the back of her hand sprang up, they didn't ask why, they just knew not to do it again. Her sex talk to them was "Don't. Get. Pregnant." End of discussion. As strict as my grandmother was, her older sister, Annie, was quite the opposite. Annie's loving arms were a safe haven for everyone. Even mom's nieces and nephews knew not to mess with Aunt Johnnie. She WAS loving, but you better be on your BEST behavior. The 3 girls would do their chores, the eldest in charge of cleaning. Each had a hand in tidying up the house while their mom worked. Carole Marie was delegated the task of watching over her rambunctious siblings and we continue to hear to this day just what a task that was. When Johnnie came home and noticed something out of place, it was the first thing that caught her eye. This attention to detail was one of the lessons they're grateful for today. When my Aunt Shelley writes up one of her proposals, or Aunt Carole teaches her students, they recall the lessons learned during their strict upbringing. "Think about the next 3 steps and be as flawless as possible."
11: This strong work ethic was instilled at a very early age. Unless you were on fire or bleeding, then you were off to school. Be responsible, apply the morals you learned in church and, again don't get pregnant. Her to-the-point, no-nonsense advice spoke volumes. My grandmother worked at Litton Industries for almost 30 years alongside her childhood best friend, Mary Green. They endured 12 hour days, 6 days a week. Whatever it took to complete the task at hand. She rose to the level of Supervisor of Accounts Payable without any formal education. She was a natural with numbers, a trait her daughter Linda would inherit. She was an active woman, enjoying her time on the bowling team, vacationing with friend Kay Egbert or being a part of Joanne Henderson's football pool. The RAMS were her team and Joanne always knew to save them for Johnnie. She was a season ticket holder for 25 years and took it personally when they moved to St. Louis! The booster club would travel with the RAMS across the United States. It was a great opportunity for her to see the country. A favorite trip was the time when she, Shelley, Big Loy and Linda went to San Francisco to watch the RAMS play the 49ers. It was raining quite hard that evening as they made their way to dinner. As the cab pulled up to the restaurant, Johnnie quickly opened the car door and ran into the lobby. Due to the minor flooding and the smooth sole of her knee-high boots she slid about 15 feet on one foot, arms flailing about before reaching the hostess stand. It was quite a spectacle. And a favorite memory, one they would often re- tell.
12: She kept her sports fan-base in LA and bought season tickets to the Raiders. She actually drove herself to the Coliseum to see them play. She was a brave woman, and no one stood in the way of her and her games. Although football kept her attention, she was a true blue baseball fan. The Dodgers were her boys and she absolutely loved going to see them. Our uncle married Don Drysdale's aunt so complimentary tickets were often given to the family and Dodger dogs were a staple part of her diet. One day, Shelley went over to her house and Johnnie had on her Dodger hat and jacket. Was she on her way to a game? No, but it was about to start. It was clear that if you were in her house you were either a Dodger fan or a you made sure the door didn't hit you on your way out. Her team spirit was present in the most interesting of places. Her wheelchair for instance. Linda put Dodger decals all over it so that everyone knew it was Johnnie's ride! One of her favorite expressions was "Me go Mei." This is Flemish for "I want to go." She traveled extensively. Her adventures took her to Hawaii, most of Europe, Asia and Mexico. She collected treasures and furniture from across the globe filling her house with tangible memories.
15: We have been blessed to have known her for so long. Grandma was 85 and lived a full and good life. It was tough being a single parent but she worked hard and provided well for her 3 girls. She was proud of her daughters and grandsons.
16: As her grandchildren, JR and I were able to get away with so much more than her daughters. One day, as grandma was babysitting us outside by the pool, I walked by her into the house carrying a bucket, brush and can of paint. It took her a few moments to register what I was doing and that I might actually follow through with this project and re-do my room. As if a thousand light bulbs simultaneously went off in her head, she put together these words. Paintbucket. Little Loy. I remember her running after me asking, "What are you doing? " I simply stated, "It needed to be done." She went into full panic, flew up the stairs and prevented me from getting us both in trouble. I was 8 and untamable, something she wasn't accustomed to. She was used to raising girls who knew better, not boys who tested how far we could push her. She just expected children to be good in her presence. She had her work cut out for her. When my parents asked her how she almost let me get way with this her reply was that she was positively stunned that I didn't automatically obey the rules. Another memory that stands out was when my brother JR one morning made a simple request of grandma. He bragged to neighborhood friend, Jerremy, "Hey, my grandma's Belgian, she'll make us waffles!" Well, for those who knew her, you know grandma was NOT a cook. My brother asked her and clearly remembers the puzzled expression she had on her face. Well, grandma gave it her best shot and fed the kids their Belgian waffles. JR remembers them tasting just fine, but the kitchen was a TOTAL disaster and grandma was thoroughly exhausted. The discarded waffles may have outnumbered the edible ones.
19: As we matured, she would laugh at our antics most of the time but we knew her smile was genuine. She had a gentle way about her. JR and I would love when grandma tickled our backs with her manicured nails. It was this type of sweetness that we will remember fondly. My dad became as close to her as if he were her own son. Their bond was strong and they cared deeply for one another. She was only too happy to open her heart up to the man who would try, and I emphasize try, to tame my mother.
20: Johnnie leaves this world with no regrets. She lived a good life based on the traditional Belgian principles with which she was raised. She loved her daughters and nieces, her nephews and grandchildren, son-in-law and most of all, her faith. She had a quiet strength about her and everyone knew that a crisp vodka martini, two olives, was her favorite accessory. Grandma, you are in our hearts and our prayers. We love you and will think of you often.
22: Linda Rae Rackley
25: My mom. She was a woman who could stop traffic, literally. She was born in a car at the intersection of Hollywood Way and San Fernando Road on the way to St. Joseph's in Burbank. My grandmother, ever the fashionista, insisted on fixing her hair before going to the hospital, never dreaming her second child would be born more quickly than the first. Annie, the matriarch of our family, broke all speed limits while my grandma labored in the back seat. As the story goes, Annie slammed on the breaks, Grandma tumbled to the floor and out came Linda. She introduced herself to the world and it would never be the same. My mom joined her older sister, Carole Marie, and parents, Ray and Johnnie, at home in Studio City. A few years later, baby sister, Michelle, was born completing the family. The three Snyder girls were all very different. First born Carole was quiet and soft spoken. Shelley, the youngest, was in constant motion and very vocal. Linda – the middle child – was a determined little fighter who always spoke her mind and balanced this with a great sense of humor. As her personality began to develop, big sister Carole noticed that this girl was going to stand out. | Linda Rae Rackley
26: Linda’s nickname was “Becky”—we don’t really know how it came to be, but when someone yelled “Becky” everyone knew my mother’s stubborn streak had surfaced—“Becky” was the inner Linda who never backed down. When she was 4, my mother rode her tricycle UP the driveway coming face to face with older cousin Ruth who was pedaling DOWN the driveway. Even though she was older, Ruth knew she’d better give “Becky” the right of way. Call her stubborn, but my mother had a fortitude that her sisters depended upon all their lives. It was mom’s job to keep them in sync. She was the anchor in the family. Paired with her determined and adventurous spirit was her accident prone side. One time around the age of 4 she was merely sitting on a park bench...and fell off. This was her first of many experiences with stitches. Another time, seven year old Carol was making lemonade for everyone and five year old Linda insisted on lifting the heavy glass pitcher in order to play hostess. She wasn’t tall enough to reach and she accidentally slammed the pitcher into edge of the counter. The glass shattered and the base rolled down her leg. She required 17 stitches. But the five year old wouldn’t stay still, insisted on seeing the wound and watched fascinated as each and every stitch was tied. Her threshold for pain baffled the doctors. A few years later, as they socialized at their grandfathers house, people were entering though the back door, letting it slam shut, as usual, and Mom just happened to be behind it as the window fell out, shattering glass over her face and body. While Annie tried to pick out the pieces, mom simply stated, "no hurt."
29: Courage was one of mom's strongest traits.
30: She proved it again a few years later when she and her sister Carole hiked to a ravine near their house in San Bernardino. Carole found a hanging vine and thought it would be fun to swing like Tarzan. Fearless as usual, "Becky" took the vine and sailed over the ravine —but mid-way across, the vine broke. My mom fell through branches, barbed wire just missing her eye. Bloody and bruised, but still quite confident, the guilty sisters crept back into the house hoping to escape their mother’s eagle eye. They didn’t. My mom and Aunt Carole have birthdays only two days apart. They would always celebrate together. These two were joined at the hip. If Carole had an idea, Linda would carry out the plan. They shared a room until mom was 10. When their parents separated and they moved to their grandfather’s house, Linda and Aunt Shelley had their turn at being roommates. They had twin beds, pushed close to each others in case of emergencies. If Shelley was scared at night, all Linda had to do was reach out and take her sister’s hand. She didn’t have to say a word. Shelley knew her big sister’s hand would always be there for her. Until the day she passed away, Shelley could always depend on help from her.
33: She remained close with her friends from Walter Reed Jr. High and North Hollywood High School. Attending Villa Cabrini Academy for her junior and senior year were two of the happiest moments of her young life. The connection she felt to her Alma Mater ran deep. Her foundation was solid and Cabrini brought out the best during those formative years. She felt her spirit daily and treasured the bonds forged within those halls. She was grateful to her own mom for sending her there. Taken from an excerpt in her Cabrini yearbook, in her own words, "I give all my gratitude to my mother for the love, thoughtfulness, care and excessive time she rendered me." It was evident that sacrifices were made and no small deed taken for granted. As they grew older, Linda followed Carole’s path, becoming a nun and teacher. Knowing how much Linda loved glamour and sequins and everything shiny, her family was surprised when she told them she wanted to join the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart convent. She entered on August 15th, 1966, in West Park NY, where she met life-long friend, Sister Arlene. After almost 2 years, she realized God had another plan for her and she came home. She applied to college, and was hired at a CPA firm in Encino. She excelled in math and seemed to find the perfect niche to carve out her career.
34: My parents met on a blind date set up by their mutual friend, Rita. Thank you Rita. The date turned into friendship and eventually love. They were married on Jan. 15th 1972. A few years later, when my mother told her sisters that she was expecting a baby all they could think of were the many accidents she'd had over the years. As luck would have it, she had 2 perfect pregnancies and 2 beautiful boys.
37: My parents had actually planned to be a duo. Children weren't really included in the scheme of things. But after we were born, my mother’s entire life revolved around her boys. She loved being a mom. My earliest recollection of her goes as far back as the house on Mclennon. It was a hot Valley summer and we were enjoying our big blue swimming pool. My dad hoisted me up on his shoulders and jumped into the deep end. I can still remember the rush of flying through the air and splashing into the cool water. I could see my mom watching. She was a protective mom. My brother and I were always safe as long as she was near. She was our biggest defender and most ardent fan. We were constantly given encouragement and praise. We were never afraid to aim high if we fell or faltered, She would be there to help us get back up. Always. The challenges JR and I faced growing up kept my mom busy. Her devotion to education provided a strong foundation for us to succeed. She read to us every night when we were small. I can still picture sitting in my brother's room, reading the "Pokey Little Puppy" again and again. She was our first teacher and our greatest mentor.
38: She loved education and never stopped wanting to learn. Her scholastic interest pushed her to achieve a Masters and a PhD in Education. She was even accepted to law school but decided it would interfere too much in her travel time. Traveling was a major source of entertainment for mom and sister, Shelley. Their numerous trips to Vegas gave mom a chance to sharpen her blackjack skills. They loved to dress and eat well in Sin City. The lights, glamour and glitz were just her style. Their first big trip was to Hawaii with friends Rene and Annette. Next was a cruise to Mexico with the kids. Then onto London and Paris with Christy and Dana. Mom and Shelley would take 2 weeks for a cruise to Alaska and inland to Denali. Then maybe spend a week in Cancun. One of her all time favorite trips was New York. That's where their friend Angie Sorrentini is from. When she got wind the girls were traveling there, Angie made it a point to show them HER New York. Marsha joined the group taking them to Legally Blond and Curtains on Broadway, it was then off to dinner in Times Square. Upon their return, mom made it a point to call Shelley if a familiar scene popped up on a television show she was watching. She got a kick out of saying, “We’ve been there!!"
41: Their last trip was to San Antonio to celebrate mom's 62nd birthday. Christy had shared a story about when she visited Texas. You see, Christy had been watching a movie about the Alamo and as it got closer to the end, she made a comment that she did not realize Mexico had won the battle. Mom laughed so much that she just HAD to see the Alamo for herself. It seemed every trip they went on- whether it be down to San Diego or off to Europe- was spent laughing. They packed a pair of extra jeans because of their tendency to chuckle until they peed. Years after they went to Alaska, if you even mention the word moose, mom would laugh until tears were streaming down her face. That was mom. She could make any destination fun and exciting.
42: As a good mom, she liked to participate in our lives, whether it was picking me up from rehearsals, driving miles to see Sharon for tutoring or staying late at school for the dozens of my brother’s sporting events. She was available to us. We knew we could rely on her, there was a trust that was never broken. She helped my brother see his true potential, always reaffirming how great a guy is. She saw my true colors before I did and loved the spectrum that would be my life. For this, we are so grateful. We were watched over with a loving heart, allowed to make mistakes yet required to learn from them. We were praised for both our accomplishments and blunders as long as a solid effort was made in learning a lesson. She had immense pride for her boys. She said she was most happy when she knew WE were most happy. It was this kind of love that radiated from her. Family was the center of her world. She LOVED the holidays, all of them. Growing up, Christmas in our living room was like having our very own North Pole. JR and I were so fortunate to have a mom whose eye for detail made our childhood a magical experience. Thanksgiving was her favorite. The meal she prepared was unbelievably delicious. I was about 14 years old when she gave me the task of setting the table. It was a proud moment for both of us. She was teaching the next generation the traditions that had been passed down to her. Celebrating birthdays were very important to her. She loved throwing parities, cooking for dozens and visiting with family and friends for hours on end.
45: BBQ's at my parents were the best. All were welcomed over to our house to swim, eat and play a favorite Belgian card game, Pitch. You never left hungry and she would always pack food for all to take home. For the 38 years that my parents were married they happily opened their home for every event throughout the year. Their house is filled with countless memoriesones we will certainly treasure. She taught me how important acts of kindness can beand how making others feel special and welcome can brighten anyone's day. It’s sending a birthday cardor cooking a special meal for those you love. The way she made her chile relleno from a recipe Cheryl gave to her was amazing. It's a favorite dish of our family and we wanted to share it with you today so I hope you're hungry !! There are so many wonderful memories I have of her. She was the type of mom that liked to encourageto look at the silver lining. One particular memory that stands out is the time when she told us she was sick. When she told the family she had cancer we didn’t really take it seriously. "Becky" was tough and always won. Throughout the 8 years she fought, she was confident and brave. She wasn’t going to let it stop her. There were a lot of places to see and people to greet.
46: When she uttered the word cancer, I was instantly impressed with the tone in which she spoke. It wasn’t one of worry or despair. She knew then and there that she would fight it and win. And she did. She went into remission. It was amazing to hear the determination in her voice. When it came back, she again tackled it head-on with an attitude so positive, it inspired all around her. And, again, she was able to keep this illness from controlling her life. The third time, she knew that it may be a little more complicated, however, she pulled it together and enjoyed a few more years of living. Living..not dying. We all know how determined she was, but sometimes, some things are just too much for one person to handle. There is nothing good about cancer. But there is something great about the people who choose to live with it and not die with it. She lived with cancer up until her last breath. She lived with it even when she knew it would eventually take her from us. On many occasions during this past year I would wander past her room to check in on her, she'd often be sitting up, half asleep half awake. One night she was upset, she said she had a bad dream. I held her hand and asked if she wanted to talk about it. We chatted until her eyes closed and her head rested gently on her pillow while she whispered "mommy go to bed now." It was such a privilege to help her through this ordeal, especially as we got closer to her passing.
49: Over these past few years, I have been so blessed to witness the love and devotion my parents had for one another. It may not have been in the most conventional of ways, but it was real. Dad: I know it wasn’t easy for you. You had your own personal health issues to overcome. And yet you soldiered through it and still had the capacity to help your wife through her illness. You lived up to the vows you pledged to her. You taught JR and I that if one stumbles, the other picks them up, carries them...and helps them along the way. Driving her to and from countless appointments, staying by her side when she received treatments, holding her when she cried and laughing with her when you made one of your witty comments. These were so important, these moments provided the quality of life she needed. Mom relied on you and you showed her just how wonderful a partner you could be. Seeing you hold her as you both said good-bye will remain the purest moment we've ever seen the two of you share.
50: She lived her life to the absolute fullest...cherishing each day as if it were a gift. This is one of many valuable lessons she taught us along the way. She was a big proponent of “do unto others as they would do unto you.” Her capacity to see the good in others was truly inspiring. She made friends easily and taught us the importance of having people in our lives that we could count on. Christy was her soul sister and will always have a special place in our lives because of the happiness she brought to mom. It's a testament to her that JR and I are surrounded by so many people whose friendships means more to us than we could possibly put into words. The outpouring of concern, support and love goes far beyond anything we could have ever imagined. You have carried our hearts for some time now and our gratitude knows no bounds.
53: I remember the day she told me that there was no more the doctors could do...the words ripped thru me. She was upset and sounded defeated and it took a LOT for her to feel defeated. The moment had come for us to start preparing for today. I called my brother. I wanted to hear his voice. I remember trying to be calm but the tears just flowed. We both wanted the same thing for her - to be out of pain. Although we would have given anything for her to be with us today, we knew that that moment had passed. All we wanted was for her was to be at peace. The following day we all sat together and talked as a family. It was an intense and beautiful moment. There were tears, words of encouragement and most of all love. We had grown so close because of all that had happened. That was our silver lining. I don’t quite know how to feel “ok” with her not being here. She was our friend, someone we could talk to, laugh with and confide in. I do know that she gave JR and I the tools to look towards the future, live our lives to the fullest and be the men she raised. She embraced every moment with us until her breath grew shallow and her spirit moved on.
54: Mom: The dignity with which you handled yourself during your final days is like no other I've experience. You were in charge up until the very last moments. Your sisters watched over you and kept their Becky safe. Dad cautiously kept vigil by your bed. JR and I never really left your side. It was a beautiful passing that morning. The sun filled the room. We were there, holding your hands. We kept you warm, surrounded you with our light and sang to your spirit. You inspired us even until the very end. Your genuine bravery stemming from a deep belief that we would one day be reunited. You were vibrant, moral and central to our lives and your physical absence will be an impossible void to fill. We promise to turn to our Godmothers for love and support, to take care of dad and each other and to continue the traditions you instilled in us. Please watch over our family and friends, through them we drew the strength to take care of you.
57: Mama, with my nosie in your neck and that funny laugh that makes you smile, with JR's great big bear hug and unfaltering pride in you, we will keep you safely in our hearts as your spirit walks beside us all the rest of our days. Our love is with you...always.