By Jonathan Phelps
---- — MARBLEHEAD — Dana Snow would always go up and down his street with a snowblower or shovel to help neighbors clear their driveways after snowstorms.
That’s most likely what he did Tuesday evening.
But police and fire departments were called to his Jersey Street home around 9:13 p.m., when Snow was found outside “unconscious, possibly having a seizure” by his wife, according to the town’s police log.
Snow, 65, was later pronounced dead after responders tried to revive him on the scene and he was taken to a hospital. He was clearing snow at the time of the call, said Selectman Harry Christensen, Snow’s cousin.
Snow retired as the town’s Department of Public Works director in April 2010. He served as the head of both the water and sewer departments since 1983, with highway responsibilities added in 2007. He recently worked for Maestranzi Bros., an outdoor power-equipment company in Beverly.
He served in the U.S. Air Force, where he was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay (1969-70) during the Vietnam War and participated in the Cambodian incursion. Snow was honored by the town this Veterans Day for his service.
Police and fire officials would not comment yesterday on the incident or a possible cause of death.
The flag was lowered to half-staff at several municipal buildings in his honor yesterday.
Christensen said he saw Snow around 6 p.m. Tuesday getting ready to start snowblowing — and he was likely helping his neighbors as he always did. Christensen gave a friendly shout to his cousin as he drove down Jersey Street during the storm.
“He is well-known for clearing his own driveway and then going around the neighborhood and helping other people,” Christensen said. “That is what Dana Snow is all about — giving, giving, giving.”
Snow was recalled yesterday as a “true American” and proud parent who loved his work, helping others and had a great sense of humor. He loved to golf and travel and always had a smile on his face, his family and friends said.
“He was my boss, but not only my boss. He was my best friend,” said Dave Donahue, who took over as DPW director when Snow retired. “He taught me a lot, and we golfed together.”
He said Snow was honest, down-to-earth and a straight-shooter.
“Just by working with him, he made me a better person,” Donahue said. “He was probably the best employee the town has ever had. The town was fortunate to have him as a department head all those years.”
Donahue said he was plowing streets Tuesday night when he heard about a “man down” on a police scanner.
“When I heard the address, I knew it was him,” Donahue said, adding that he thought it was a diabetic reaction after which Snow would likely be OK. He later received a phone call that Snow didn’t make it.
Snow began working for the town as a laborer Aug. 3, 1972. He plowed snow on Marblehead Neck during the Blizzard of ’78.
“I think he enjoyed his job very much,” Christensen said. “I talked to him after his retirement, and I could tell that he was restless.”
Christensen said Snow always went “above the call to duty.”
“He didn’t ask anyone to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself, and very often, he did do it himself,” Christensen said.
After his retirement, Snow would often visit the DPW offices and share his extensive knowledge of the department. His last visit was a few weeks ago, said Paul Jalbert, office manager.
“He started in the trenches with everybody else before he made his way up the ranks,” Jalbert said. “He was a very hands-on boss.”
He said no one ever had a bad thing to say about Snow.
“No matter what the situation was, he always approached it with a smile,” Jalbert said. “He was always willing to reach out a hand and help.”
When a fellow employee would retire, he always served as the master of ceremonies at their parties.
“He would come up with the darnedest things,” Jalbert recalled of the parties. “He always had a bag of tricks and made the person retiring feel happy.”
At his own retirement recognition from selectmen, he deflected any attention from himself.
“Nothing happens without a team,” Snow said at the time. “I think it should be ‘we.’ The big ‘we.’”
Above all, Snow cared about others.
“He always had in his mind what the neighbors needed and how he can help them,” Christensen said. “He was that kind of guy.”
Snow remarried a few years ago and is survived by two sons.
Staff writer Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 978-338-2527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at JPhelps_SN.