McCLURE, Ohio - Benjamin J. Saunders, a longtime letter carrier in East Toledo who was a performer and officer with the Toledo Repertoire Theater, died Monday in Wood County Hospital, Bowling Green. He was 65.
He had diabetes and had been in poor health for several years, his brother Jerry said.
Formerly of South Toledo, he moved to McClure about five years ago, his brother Bert said.
Mr. Saunders was a letter carrier for 35 years, mostly in East Toledo. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service about 10 years ago, his brothers said.
He knew several generations of some families on his route - and plenty of canines. He even adopted a dog that used to follow him around his route for 13 years.
But he was cautious.
When a resident would tell him that her dog didn't bite, Mr. Saunders' usual response, he told The Blade in 1986, was, “Lady, you might know that. And I might even know that. But does the dog know that?”
Mr. Saunders was one of the Rep's best-known performers in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, and he performed in such plays as A View from the Bridge, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Private Lives, The Odd Couple, Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
“He was in his glory when he could act, and he acted on and off the stage,” his wife, Bernie, said.
One of his favorite roles was as Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which initially required a four-hour makeup session.
Quasimodo aside, Mr. Saunders “was a leading man, definitely,” said Peg Kehoe, a friend and former Rep associate. “He loved people and he loved the acting industry. It was part of him.”
He stopped performing shortly after he retired, but people still told his brother Bert that they missed Mr. Saunders' shows.
“Like any actor, he liked the recognition and knowing you did a great job and all the accolades that came with it,” Bert said.
Mr. Saunders was a former president and board member of the Rep. He acted in productions of the Village Players and did commercials.
He was a graduate of Scott High School.
His first wife, Suzanne, died Oct. 16, 1985.
Surviving are his wife, Bernie, whom he married May 11, 1993, and brothers, Bert and Jerry.
There will be no visitation. Services will be at 10 a.m. today in the Chapel of the Chimes at Toledo Memorial Park & Mausoleum, Sylvania. Arrangements are by the Rodenberger Mortuary, McClure. The family requests tributes to the McClure Emergency Medical Service.