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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Sauder official helped establish church division

ARCHBOLD, Ohio - Orval D. Sauder, one of the founders of Sauder Woodworking Co.'s church furniture division in Archbold, died of cancer Monday in a daughter's home in Fulton County's German Township after a 13-year bout with the illness. He was 91.

Mr. Sauder was the manager of the firm's church furniture division in Archbold from its inception in 1946 until he retired in 1985.

Before that, Mr. Sauder was a laborer at the firm for 10 years, beginning in 1936.

Erie Sauder, the founder of Sauder Woodworking, who died in 1997 at age 92, and Orval Sauder were first cousins.

The company grew with the surge in church building in the early 1960s, turning Archbold into a growing furniture capital. It has furnished churches throughout the Midwest, including many in Toledo.

In the early 1960s, Sauder Woodworking was one of the few in the country producing church furniture exclusively. It has since diversified its furniture production, becoming a world-leading manufacturer of ready-to-assemble furniture.

Orval Sauder was known as an involved, hands-on manager. In 1968, for example, he accompanied a shipment of church pews and furnishings to Honolulu after finding the shipment could not go to the Port of Toledo but had to be transported by truck to the East Coast, then shipped by boat to Hawaii.

"He always wanted to be fair with everyone, and he worked with them. He did not just manage; he [was] on the floor with his employees," his daughter, Carol Nafziger, said. "He was a very humble man a very kind, honest, generous man."

Born on a family farm near Pettisville, Ohio, Mr. Sauder attended a country school there through the ninth grade, when he quit to help his father, Emanuel, in his building moving business just south of Archbold..

In 1937, he married Jennie Hess. She died in 1987.

In retirement, Mr. Sauder enjoyed making stained glass pieces, golfing, and fishing.

Mr. Sauder was a charter member of Inlet Mennonite Church, near Wauseon, and a member of Central Mennonite Church, near Archbold.

Surviving are his wife of 17 years, Ilva; son, Jeff; daughters, Jeanette Cripe, Carol Nafziger, Judy Yoder, and Linda Rupp; stepdaughter, Carolyn Kauffman; brothers, Edgar and Loren; sisters, Doris Yoder and Valetta Bonilla; 15 grandchildren; three stepgrandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren, and nine stepgreat-grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Central Mennonite Church, near Archbold. The body will be in Fairlawn Chapel, Archbold, after 2 p.m. tomorrow. Arrangements are by the Short Funeral Home, Archbold.

The family suggests tributes to the Heifer Project International, the Hospice of Williams and Fulton Counties, or a charity of the donor's choice.

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