MONTPELIER - Saul “Sollie” Ekus, a Polish Jew who won the hearts of many Christians in Williams County with his recipe for hearty whole wheat bread, died Wednesday in Evergreen Manor here. He was 90.
Mr. Ekus apparently died of congestive heart failure, Donna Buda, a longtime friend, said. He was a resident of the nursing home for almost five years.
Mr. Ekus was found at a rescue mission in Fort Wayne, Ind., about 30 years ago. Virgil Sloan, a longtime friend, said Mr. Ekus impressed the entourage from Williams County with the sincerity of his Christian beliefs. He returned to Williams County, where intermittently he lived with a number of Christian families until he moved into the nursing home.
“There was something special inside Sollie that drew people to him,” Mrs. Sloan said. “I guess you'd call him a drifter. He was a character who was out to see the world, but his main goal in life was to please the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Mr. Ekus emigrated to the United States about 1920. His father was a smalltime scrap dealer in Detroit, and the family located in an established neighborhood in East Detroit.
He could speak Polish and soon learned to speak English. He was fluent in Russian and Yiddish, and he learned to make his way through the rough neighborhoods of his adopted American city to Detroit's Eastern Market, where his brother, Rubin Agauas, said Mr. Ekus learned the fundamentals of retail business.
Elaine Van Sickle, a longtime friend, claimed responsibility for teaching Mr. Ekus how to bake whole wheat bread, using available ingredients grown on the family's farm. She said her guest became fascinated with baking bread, and eventually he worked out a recipe that drew raves from his Christian friends.
“He was very proud of his bread. If practice makes perfect, his recipe was perfect because he practiced a lot,” Mrs. Van Sickle said. “He would make oodles of bread and he'd give it away, even send some to California. He lived with us for about two years, and he was like a member of our family.”
She added that she believed Mr. Ekus was proud of his Jewish heritage because he was especially fond of kosher foods, but she added that his bread “was just whole wheat bread. It wasn't Jewish bread, as far as I know, but everybody agreed that it was really good.”
Mr. Ekus was an avid reader and often quoted poetry. Mrs. Buda said Mr. Ekus lived with her family for about three years. She admitted “Sollie was a very colorful individual. He enjoyed storytelling. He had a lot of stories, usually something with humor, and he liked to laugh at his own jokes.”
Surviving are his brothers, Benjamin and Rubin Agauas.
Services will be at 2 p.m. today in the Thompson Funeral Home, Montpelier, where the body will be after noon today.
The family requests tributes to the Evergreen Manor activity fund.