Austen Tyler Snell
Austen Tyler Snell (Submitted)
Austen Snell was a man with an appetite nearly as big as his heart.

No matter where he went, his friends said, Austen considered everyone his neighbor. And if any of them were cooking -- he'd be there to help eat.

Austen died April 21 from injuries he sustained in an April 14 motorcycle crash.

Aside from the many visitors and gifts that have poured in since Austen's death, his mother, Roxine Snell, has found comfort in knowing that even after her son died, he kept giving.

As an organ donor, Austen saved the lives of six people and gave sight to two, Roxine said.

A certificate from the Gift of Life Donor Program sat on the living room coffee table in their Dover home.

Austen Snell, 21, died April 21. His organs saved the lives of six people and gave sight to two.
Austen Snell, 21, died April 21. His organs saved the lives of six people and gave sight to two. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - REBECCA LEFEVER)

Roxine was told the man who received Austen's heart was in his 50s.

"I hope he knows how big of a heart Austen had," Roxine said, tears starting to stream down her face. "His heart still gives."

Roxine sat on the couch in her living room Wednesday, surrounded by Austen's friends and relatives as they recalled the 21-year-old who had touched their lives before his own was taken.

There was barely enough space to stand in the room surrounded by photos of the young man. Everyone had a memory of Austen: the way he would greet strangers; how he devoured any food set before him; the strength in his arms when he gave bear hugs.

They would get on a roll about a story -- how Austen would sing while he worked, whether it was cooking for his Mom or filling a wheelbarrow with roof scraps -- and the laughs and voices would get louder before they stopped and were suddenly quiet.

Because as happy as the memories were for them, Austen wasn't there.

Many of their eyes were wet with tears.

Gladys Roach, Austen's grandmother or "Gram," admired the photo of Austen holding a pumpkin pie.

"He never wanted cake for his birthday," she said. Instead, he'd ask for one of her pies.

But her's wasn't the only cooking he admired.

Bri Ward said she first met Austen when she was learning how to cook for her family.

"I didn't hear a single compliment from my kids, so it was definitely his encouragement that kept me going," she said. "Austen was like that with everything."

Bri remembers when she'd be angry about something and Austen would visit. In just a few minutes, he'd tell a funny story or do something to make her laugh.

"Don't you feel better not to be mad?" he would ask her.

Bri's son, Doc, would soon come to know Austen like an older brother.

"He took care of all those awkward puberty years for me," Bri said with a laugh.

Doc decided not to take part in Wednesday's interview, Bri said. The loss was too much for him.

Mike McClane said he'll miss seeing Austen swimming in his creek.

He knew school was out for the day when a loud splash and shouting filled his yard as Austen jumped into the water.

They did a lot together -- fishing, working on cars, having cookouts.

Since he was a kid, Austen was friendly, Roxine said.

He would take walks or hop on his bike and hours later return from the "neighbors'" home. But sometimes the neighbor lived 30 miles away.

"That's just how he was," Roxine said. "Everyone was his neighbor. He couldn't understand that sometimes people just didn't want to be hugged or want to talk about things. He was known for his hugs."

He knew how to ride a motorcycle since the time he could walk and in his lifetime, had probably owned close to 100 cars and bikes.

"Every time a car pulled up and I didn't know who it belong to, it had to be Austen," Bri said.

The day Austen died, he stopped by Mike's home, showing off his bike before popping a wheelie and driving off.

Austen was headed southbound on Interstate 83, just west of Loucks Mill Road, on April 14 when his 1983 Kawasaki ZX6R went down as he was negotiating a left turn, according to state police.

Austen, who was wearing a helmet, was thrown from the motorcycle and traveled 100 feet before he stopped, police said.

He died of head injuries on April 21.

His tragedy is not the first of its kind that has crushed this group of people.

Less than a year ago, one of Austen's best friends died in a motorcycle crash. Austen visited the man's 2-year-old daughter almost every day.

"He was never the same," Roxine said.

In the days following Austen's crash, no one knew how much his health had deteriorated.

"I was there the whole time, and I never knew," Roxine said. "You hoped he would get better. You hoped he'd come home soon."

His friends wondered what Austen would think of their gathering to share his story.

They imagined him sitting on the floor with the dogs or asking to eat everyone's leftovers.

They pictured him pushing people out of the way so he could crash on the couch.

If nothing else, he'd be happy to know he could still make them laugh.

Those who attended

Several people squeezed into the home of Roxine Snell, Austen Snell's mother, Wednesday.

They each shared a memory of their friend who died April 21 from injuries he sustained in an April 14 motorcycle crash.

They included:

Susanna Schroll, a friend

Brandon Devor, stepbrother

Derek Holmes, friend

Travis and Jamie Wolf, friends and neighbors

Kermit Keefer, friend

Toby Schroll, friend

Bri Ward, Tom and Doc, friends

Mike McClane, friend

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