Ray Szmanda, known to generations of Wisconsinites as the man who brought Menards commercials to life, has died at age 91.
Szmanda passed away at his home in Antigo on Sunday, May 6, according to an obituary posted to Bradley Funeral Home & Crematory's website.
Szmanda worked in T.V. and radio in the 1950s and operated a broadcast school in Waukesha until the late 1970s, when he joined Menards as a pitchman. After a successful run, Szmanda retired as the spokesman in 1998.
Menards released a statement about the loss of their beloved spokesman:
"Ray Szmanda remained a steady fixture in our advertising for nearly a quarter century until his retirement in 1998. Still to this day, Ray’s friendly, enthusiastic and fun loving personality have made a lasting impression on our customers and all of us at Menards. We are saddened by his passing and our thoughts and prayers are with Ray’s family, friends and the millions of people who knew him as ‘The Menards Guy.'"
His countless commercial appearances over the decades, as well as his distinctive voice, endeared Szmanda to many across the years.
"I'm having a ball; I love what I do, and I think as long as I feel that way, that message gets across on television," Szmanda once said, according to his official biography on the Menards website.
Szmanda graduated from Milwaukee's Bay View High School in 1944. In 1970 he founded the Transamerica School of Broadcasting in Wausau, helping local talent to achieve their dreams, and preparing them for the airwaves. Szmanda also performed as a drummer and vocalist in Wisconsin clubs.
Additionally, Szmanda served his country in the Navy in WWII.
The funeral Mass will be held on May 12 at 10:30 a.m. at St. John Catholic Church. Visitation is on May 11 from 4 to 7 p.m. and May 11 from 9 to 10 a.m. at the Bradley Funeral Home in Antigo, Wisconsin.