Roberta Kay Betts von Sneidern, a longtime resident of Baldwinsville, NY, passed away peacefully while in hospice care at her Canton St. home on Tuesday, October 5th, after a battle with lung cancer. Born Roberta Kay Pringle in Warners, NY, she had lived in Baldwinsville, and previously in Syracuse with husband Alvar “Mike” von Sneidern, until his death in October 2020. She was 83.
A 1955 graduate of Solvay High School, Kay lived in Central New York for the majority of her life. A boundlessly creative spirit with an eye for unique detail, ingenuity and a “sky’s the limit” philosophy, instilled in her by her father, those who knew her will fondly recall her sparkling wit, unending kindness, natural hospitality and her unique talents as an entrepreneur and craftsperson.
Starting her own handcrafting business, Katydid Kreations, after moving to Tennessee in 1980 she would become involved in the career of Grand Ole Opry legend, comedian Minnie Pearl, the alter ego of Nashville resident Sarah Cannon. Approaching Mrs. Cannon one day following a church service, she presented her with the crude design of a handcrafted replica of the performer’s iconic straw hat complete with dangling $1.98 price tag. The hats and other Minnie Pearl-related creations were sold in the entertainer’s museum near Nashville’s Music Row, at Opryland theme park, Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry House. Kay’s creations and unique story were spotlighted in newspapers and magazines including Smithsonian, Ford Times and TV Guide. The latter inclusion coincided with a 1992 tribute to Minnie Pearl which aired on The Nashville Network and featured 100 stars from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Burt Reynolds and Pee Wee Herman to Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks, with participants donning hats all made by Kay in honor of Cannon’s beloved character. She would go on to create other handcrafted items found in gift shops across the country for George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and many more.
Kay was a Past Worthy Matron in the Masonic-affiliated Order of the Eastern Star and active in the Order of the Amaranth. A descendent of Scottish ancestors she was also a member of Daughters of Scotia, and rose to the rank of Chief Daughter at Lady Douglas Lodge #126 in Syracuse. She remained an active member of numerous volunteer organizations throughout her lifetime.
Kay would return to New York State in the early ʼ90s, where her growing interest in bluegrass music would lead to her becoming two-time president of the Central New York Bluegrass Association. Bluegrass also led her to Mike, who shared her enthusiasm for the music and whom she would marry in 2002. Attending numerous bluegrass festivals and events both in and outside of New York, the couple became a fixture in the community and would make fast, lifelong friends wherever they traveled. As life slowed down for them and they stayed closer to home, they found a new community of friends during their summers at Brennan Beach on Lake Ontario. In 2012, they began hosting a weekly gathering, an informal salon for family, friends and anyone else interested in attending, which Kay dubbed Any Wednesday. Calling it “the best thing we ever did,” she continued the tradition after Mike’s passing. Already aware that she was facing a terminal diagnosis, at one of the last Any Wednesdays this fall she treated her guests to a hilarious lip-synched performance of a Patsy Cline song, demonstrating that her crowd-pleasing humor had remained intact. For several years she also helped organize “Cousins Club,” socializing and staying connected to her Pringle relatives.
Kay is survived by her younger sister, Judy Murray of Baldwinsville, NY, her three children, Craig Betts of Phoenix, NY, Stephen L. Betts of Phoenix, NY, and Nashville, TN, and Paula Betts Baker (John) of Derry, NH. Other survivors include stepsons Erik (Nina Lutz) von Sneidern of Baldwinsville, Christopher von Sneidern of San Francisco, CA and Lars (Heather Mondor) von Sneidern of Portland, OR, stepdaughter Jennifer von Sneidern Haas of Camp Hill, PA, as well as six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Her husband, Mike, her parents, Robert Kenneth and Dora Frances Pringle, and her first husband, Fred Betts, predeceased Kay. Other family members, including cousins to whom she remained close throughout her life, and loving friends who remained in touch and those who aided in making the last difficult weeks of her life more bearable now join together in their sorrow knowing she is at peace and will be fondly remembered by all those who knew her.
A celebration of Kay’s life will be held Saturday, October 16th, at 11 a.m. at Savior's Church/FBC, 22 Syracuse St., Baldwinsville, with a lunch to follow.