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Ray Szmanda, Menards’ spokesman for more than 2 decades, dies at 91

Photo illustration

ANTIGO, Wis. – The man who spent years encouraging people to “save big money” at Menards has died at the age of 91.

Ray Szmanda served as the enthusiastic pitchman for the home improvement chain, which has stores in Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Many Hoosiers grew up seeing and hearing Szmanda in Menards ads.

Szmanda became known as “The Menards Guy” for his long-running ad campaign for the chain, which began in 1976 and lasted until he “retired” in 1998. Even after retirement, he made sporadic appearances in Menards ads. He continued to appear, in comic form, on in-store and print advertisements.

His son, Charles Szmanda, said his father died from congestive heart failure Sunday while in hospice care in Antigo, Wisconsin.

“Ray Szmanda was a man who I was proud to call my dad,” Charles Szmanda wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m going to miss him.”

Szmanda is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin, native and a World War II Navy veteran. He founded a broadcasting school in Wausau and also narrated a recording of the Bible.

Before becoming the face of Menards, he worked as a radio and television staff announcer. He spent more than 20 years as the primary spokesman for the Midwest chain, making countless appearances representing the store in public and starring in a number of TV ads.

“His friendly, fun loving personality and enthusiasm has made a lasting impression on Menards and its customers,” Menards wrote about Szmanda on its website.

Here are some vintage commercials featuring Szmanda: