Joseph C. Snavely
Joseph C. "Joe" Snavely poses for this recent photo for the church directory at Zion Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ. (Submitted photo)
Those flowers graced the altar of Zion Evangelical and Reformed United Church of Christ for Joe’s funeral, arranged by daughter Page Palmer of Hagerstown, who helped her father tend his garden.
Joe was known locally for the garden centers that bear his name, Snavely’s Garden Corner. The first one was opened in 1971 after Joe purchased an existing business, The Garden Corner, in Chambersburg, followed by a Hagerstown center in 1987.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Joe was a pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II, completing his training just as the war was ending.
He met his future bride, Elaine Marriott, as a teenager at church. They were part of a group of boys and girls who socialized together.
“Church was central to these friendships,” said daughter Anne Stewart of Carlisle, Pa.
Until her death in 2000, Elaine kept in touch with many people in that group. After that, Joe picked up his wife’s address book and continued the correspondence.
Joe and Elaine married in 1947, the year before he graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., where he majored in floriculture and ornamental horticulture. They had five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
He was the first manager of White Flower Farms in Litchfield, Conn., then moved to Hagerstown to manage the Sears Farm Store and, in time, its garden center.
The couple bought a brick rancher on Belvedere Road in Hagerstown, even though their initial goal was to return to the Lebanon Valley area in Pennsylvania, known for its fertile soil and where they had family.
Instead, it was here they raised their four children, all of whom graduated from North Hagerstown High School.
“Love grows in small houses,” Anne said. “There was lots of sharing.”
“Hagerstown was a good place to put down roots and grow,” Page said.
After working at Sears, Joe took a job as manager of Leaman’s Seed Store in Hagerstown, but his goal was to one day own his own nursery.
Chris graduated from the University of Maryland in 1970 with a degree in ornamental horticulture, but no thought of a family business, he said. When his father asked him if he would be interested in running a garden center, Chris agreed and Joe purchased The Garden Corner in 1971.
“I had absolutely no idea that was on the horizon until he spoke to me before graduation,” Chris said.
Joe continued to work at Leaman’s for five more years, while Chris stabilized and expanded the business so that it could support both families. Joe then came on board and handled the retail end of the business, incorporating elements he learned while working for other businesses, while Chris oversaw the landscaping side of it.
When son Jon Snavely of Greencastle, Pa., graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in ornamental horticulture in 1979, he joined Snavely’s.
“The door was open, but there was no pressure to join the business,” Jon said.