Doris Mae Hoey Snyder, an Annapolis resident who performed as the head majorette for the Baltimore Colts Marching Band and later formed the Washington Redskinettes, died Dec. 18 at the Baltimore Washington Medical Center after suffering an aortic dissection. She was 85.
Mrs. Snyder was born in Baltimore. She grew up in Pigtown and attended Southern High School in Federal Hill, where she learned her majorette skills, and Anne Arundel Community College.
She became a majorette for the Colts Marching Band in 1947, one of six original members of the group. Her twin sister, Marge Schmidt, joined the following year, and they spent years twirling batons alongside one another.
"You couldn't meet two kinder, more loving, caring people on the face of the earth," said John Ziemann, former president of the band and now president of the Marching Ravens.
Mr. Ziemann was 15 when he joined the Colts band, and the sisters were the first people to approach him and ask how he was doing, he recalled.
In 1961, The Baltimore Sun described "the blond twins" in an article about the painstaking hours that the majorettes spent perfecting their routines. Mrs. Snyder told the reporter that during intrasquad games, "We do very little except try and pick the players we think will make the squad."
At the time, Mrs. Snyder was an instructor for the Middle River Volunteer Fire Department majorettes and another group in Riverdale Heights, as well as a professional judge who was "in demand all over the East and Midwest."
Baton twirling was a popular activity for girls then, with many churches, rec centers and veterans clubs sponsoring drum corps and majorette groups, Mr. Ziemann said.
Twirling "helps girls acquire poise, and develops their character by instilling a love of perfection," said Mrs. Snyder in a 1960 Sun article about the Chesapeake Bay Twirling Derby.
She taught girls ages 6 to 18, said her twin sister, who lives in Annapolis.
"We were the girls' answer to Little League," Mrs. Schmidt said. "They were learning a skill, learning to march. I always said if they didn't learn anything but to hold their shoulders back and stand up straight, then we did a good job."
In the 1960s, Mrs. Snyder also was a water-safety instructor for people with multiple disabilities.
In 1961, Mrs. Snyder moved to Hyattsville when her husband's job was transferred to Washington, D.C. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall offered her a job to start up the Redskinettes majorette group.
"We always teased her and called her a traitor," Mr. Ziemann said. "It was her time to move on and to create her own thing."
In 1967, she began working at the U.S. Naval Academy Sailing Center, where she retired two decades later as secretary and program coordinator for the director of sailing.
She also worked as a Realtor for Long & Foster for 20 years.
The twin sisters helped encourage the Baltimore Colts Marching Band to stay together when the band was without a team for 11 years after the city lost the Colts in 1984, Mr. Ziemann said. In 1997, they performed at a 50th anniversary celebration of the band.
"They still had it," Mr. Ziemann said. "They could still twirl. It was like 1947."
Mrs. Snyder's passion for football lasted throughout her life. She and her sister were featured in a 1995 Sun story about their experiences performing together as majorettes and their love of the sport.
"Mrs. Snyder, who keeps a Baltimore Colts doll and a Washington Redskins doll in the kitchen of her Annapolis home, has a piece of the goal post from the Colts' 1958 championship game — known as the Greatest Game Ever Played — tucked away in a closet," the story said.
Mrs. Snyder's hobbies included sailing, swimming, traveling and dancing. She was a greeter at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 1101 Bay Ridge Ave. in Annapolis. Burial will be at Lake View Memorial Park in Sykesville.
In addition to her twin sister, Mrs. Snyder is survived by two sons, Robert Snyder of Kill Devil Hills, N.C., and Russ Snyder of North Miami Beach, Fla; a grandson; two great-grandchildren; and a niece. Her marriage ended in divorce.
Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun