Former colleagues recall a dedicated "natural communicator," full of vitality and love

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July 12, 2008 07:15 PM

Whether Tony Snow was at the helm of the White House press corps or spending time with those close to him, friends and colleagues of the former White House press secretary, who died Saturday from cancer, recall a dedicated “natural communicator,” full of vitality and a love for his family.

“He made things go right – he made it fun,” Greta Van Susteren – who had known Snow since the ’80s – tells PEOPLE. “On my first day, when I showed up at FOX, it was daunting being new at a job. Tony came in, he dropped his body in the couch across from me. He acted like we had been friends forever. He welcomed me.”

When Snow went on to become the press secretary, “he felt great honor and pleasure [for the position],” says Van Susteren. “He wanted to go; he wanted an adventure. He had the thrill of it.”

Another friend, current White House press secretary Dana Perino, notes his dedication to the role. “His briefings were usually about 50 minutes–mine average about 20,” says Perino. “He just had the gift for gab and he would hold them in there and make them understand what the president was trying to do.”

However, Snow’s main focus was his family. “His dedication and love for [them] was so admirable,” says Perino. “I remember when his wife turned 50, he spent a week or so and he wanted to buy 50 gifts. Some were little, like a candy bar or something, but he had them all individually wrapped and ready for her on her 50th birthday.”

And even in the political trenches, Snow maintained a great sense of decency and perspective.

“He didn’t mind getting into the political trenches and getting into hand-to-hand combat,” says Jim McGrath, spokesperson for former President George H. W. Bush. “He was able to do it and maintain respect from those with whom he did combat. He was just a remarkable guy.”

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