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Retired Atlanta Sergeant dies of COVID-19

'He didn't want to go to sleep because he feared that at that point he would let go': Family speaks about the man who gave back to the community for 40 years.

ATLANTA — Wayne Snyder was a family man who dedicated forty years of his life to law enforcement. The 61-year-old died from COVID-19 Jan. 23, but his family carries his lengthy legacy on.

It's a legacy that includes 30 years working for the Atlanta Police Department until he retired as a Sergeant in 2010. It was a short-lived retirement, as shortly after he went on to work for Park Atlanta, and years later joined the Georgia Department of Corrections as a special agent.

Credit: WXIA
Retired Atlanta police Sergeant Wayne Snyder

His wife, Sharon, and Joshua, one of his three kids, said his loves included his family and his career.

"He loved his job, he never worked a day in his life," said Sharon.

The U.S. Marine veteran and family guy at heart passed away on Jan. 23, about a month after learning he had COVID-19. Sharon also had the virus at the same time.

"On New Year's Eve, he started noticing that he would almost pass out," she recalled. "He would almost faint."

He went to the doctor shortly after, who sent him to the hospital, where he found out he had pneumonia.

"To see someone who you see as this man who can't be broken - I had never seen him more vulnerable," said his 15-year-old son, Joshua. "You could hear the fear in his voice. He didn't want to go to sleep because he feared that at that point he would let go."

Credit: WXIA
Sharon and Wayne Snyder.

Sharon says two days later he was sent to the intensive care unit where he was intubated and put on a ventilator.

"We didn't get to hug him or hold his hand or anything like that," she said. "My son's didn't get to say goodbye and his daughter didn't get to say goodbye."

However, Joshua says he is thankful he was able to say things to his father ten days before he passed.

"That was my last chance - I didn't know it but I'm glad I was able to say it," recalled his younger son. "I was able to apologize on a personal note because I hadn't been the best to him. I hoped it wasn't the last chance I had but I'm glad that I was able to take it."

RELATED: Georgia Dept. of Corrections announces death of special agent from COVID complications

He said he looks up to his dad - not only as a father but also as a human being, who gave so much of his time back to the community.

"He was kind of a tough man, at times, but I always knew he had me in his heart," he said. "His dedication to helping people ... I think it's someone to look up to."

In addition to Sharon and Joshua, Snyder leaves behind Jacob, a 20-year-old son who is currently at the University of Georgia, and a daughter, 35-year-old Beverly.

Credit: WXIA
Snyder next to his daughter, Beverly (left) in her graduation

"It shocked us," said Sharon. "We were just in shock. We know and we read about other people but then you read about the 110-year-old in the nursing home who makes it... so it's hard to think that your 61-year-old father who doesn't even get sick... it's just very unexpected to us."

Although his family was not able to say goodbye, they're trying to carry on the legacy "Serg Snyder" leaves behind... one that includes keeping the public safe.

"COVID-19 is real," said Joshua. "It sucks to wear a mask but take it from me... it sucks a lot more to have someone die. I'd rather take not breathing super duper well over that."

The family now has a GoFundMe page to pay for Snyder's funeral and medical expenses. 

Sharon says they are going through a difficult time right now as they also adjust to receiving less income, given that Snyder was the main source of income.

"When you have loans and stuff like that, you think you have all the rest of time to pay them off - another 20 years - no one thought he was going to pass away," she said. "My husband didn't think it, nobody thought it... he didn't have any underlying health conditions."

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Message from the Atlanta Police Department:

The Atlanta Police Department continues to mourn the death of retired APD Sergeant Wayne Snyder who passed away from COVID-19. According to his family, Wayne was admitted to the hospital on January 4, 2021, with COVID pneumonia and was soon after transferred to ICU. High flow oxygen was used at first and then he required a ventilator, which stabilized his condition initially. Wayne passed away at 4:08 pm on Saturday, January 23, 2021. He leaves behind his beautiful wife, Sharon, two sons, Jacob and Joshua, and one daughter, Beverly.

After high school, Sergeant Snyder served three years in the United States Marine Corp. At the conclusion of his military service, he joined the Atlanta Police Department in 1980 and began a career in law enforcement that lasted until his retirement as a Sergeant in 2010. After his retirement from the Atlanta Police Department, he went to work with Park Atlanta from 2011 to 2017. While working with Park Atlanta, he joined the Department of Juvenile Justice in 2013 and worked there until transferring in 2015 to the Georgia Department of Corrections as a special agent attached to the Drug Enforcement Agency, where he worked until his passing. He was loved and respected by so many people within the Atlanta Police Department, including many of the great citizens of Atlanta. Sergeant Snyder was a very special person, husband, father, family man, and dear friend to so many who will treasure his loving memory. Sergeant Wayne Snyder, a man with a huge smile and so much love for his family and friends, will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved him best.

Throughout his career within the department, he received numerous accommodations and acknowledgments from City Hall. The department is better for having him serve with so many of us and leaving such a great legacy. We will forever miss you, Sergeant Snyder. #NeverForget #RIP 

Credit: Atlanta Police Department