William Benners Snow was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 12, 1931. After graduating from Chicago’s Senn High School in 1949, he attended North Park College for two years before transferring to Loyola University-Chicago where he earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting in 1955. Loyola’s timing for their curriculum requirements delayed Bill’s graduation by two years, but that timing quirk resulted in him earning a degree every ten years. In 1965, he earned an MBA from Northwestern University, in 1975, he earned a Masters of Tax from DePaul University, and in 1985 he completed Carnegie-Mellon University’s Executive program.
Bill worked at the neighborhood grocery store while in high school, put himself through college by digging ditches, and began his professional career in 1955 as a public accountant with Coopers & Lybrand. After a client asked him if he wanted to spend his career embalming last year’s numbers or if he wanted to build something, Bill segued into private business where he spent the remainder of his career in various executive positions. Bill served on many corporate boards and was a trustee at DePaul University for 25 years.
Throughout the 1960s and into the 1980s, Bill held executive positions at Chicago Rawhide, General Tire, Hart Schaffner & Marx, CFS Continental, and Amerimark. In 1985 he moved to Columbus, Ohio and joined Consolidated Stores, today known as Big Lots, as CFO and led their I.P.O. on the New York Stock Exchange. And in 1994, after retiring for one day, he moved to Dothan, Alabama to join Movie Gallery as CFO and led their I.P.O. on NASDAQ. His colleagues in Dothan called him, “the Yankee who gets things done.”
Bill loved classical music and regularly attended live performances of symphonies and operas. He also possessed a beautiful bass-baritone voice and took vocal lessons. In 1960, he had two tickets to the opera La Bohème but was unable to find a music lover to join him. He gave the extra ticket to his voice instructor who was confident she would be able to give the ticket away. Bill had no expectations of who would get the ticket and only hoped the person would enjoy the show.
The instructor gave the ticket to another student, a soprano named Carol Serr, and told her, “It’s a date.” The instructor didn’t bother to tell Bill. At the opera, Bill was pleased his superfluous ticket went to an attractive young lady, but was irked when she kept hinting that she expected a ride home. Carol was pleased to meet an attractive young man, but was irked when he initially balked at giving her a ride home.
Three months later they were engaged.
When Carol ventured to Chicago’s north side to have dinner with Bill’s family, she erred by asking for mustard. The table went silent since that condiment was verboten in the Snow house. Bill’s father viewed spices as something people used to mask the taste of spoiled food. When Bill ventured to South Dakota to meet Carol’s family, farmers from Germany and Finland who spent their entire working lives outside, they had difficulty understanding Bill’s job as an accountant. When Bill explained he put on a suit and tie each morning, drove to his office, and sat at a desk, Carol’s grandfather, finally understanding the nature of Bill’s work, exclaimed, “Oh, inside yob! Dat’s a good yob!”
His children never understood why he was so happy when the ice cream truck meandered its way down their quiet suburban street. Bill always offered to buy a treat for his kids…but only if they ran to the truck to make the purchase. Only later did they learn the real reason: Bill vividly recalled being unable afford the five cents needed to purchase an ice cream when he was a child. In fact, he didn’t even have the two cents needed to buy a simple flavored ice. He was proud of being able to provide for his family and never forgot his humble beginnings.
Bill was a fan of Chicago sports teams, in particular the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Cubs. After a lifetime of baseball disappointments, Bill was delighted to see his team finally win the World Series in 2016.
In retirement, Bill and Carol spent winters in Palm Beach Gardens, FL and summers at their mountain home in Banner Elk, NC. Both homes were on golf courses, enabling Bill to enjoy his passion for golf on a year round basis. Banner Elk became Bill’s adopted and beloved home and he generously gave to The Crossnore School and Home for Children and served on the board of Lees-McRae College.
After growing weary of Florida, Bill and Carol returned to another adopted home, Dothan, AL, where they spent winters until 2013, when they moved to Seattle to be near their daughter and grandchildren. Bill never grew weary of Banner Elk.
Bill donated generously to many charities, including setting up an accounting scholarship at DePaul University.
Bill passed away in Seattle, Washington on August 31, 2017. He was 85. Bill is survived by his wife of 56 years, Carol Marilyn Snow (née Serr), his children William Robert Snow and Laura Ann Snow, and two grandchildren, Zeven and Zaphia Snow.
As per Bill’s wishes, no services, remembrances, nor life celebrations will be held. In lieu of flowers or donations, the Snow family asks that you follow Bill’s example: Mind your own business, but if you are in a position to help someone, and they want your help, do so.