“It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t know it can be done. I’m absolutely convinced that of all those people that were here 40 years ago, the one that saw all this beautiful setting with history all around us was Erie Sauder.” So said Dean Spangler, Chairman of the Sauder Village Board, as he welcomed everyone to a very special ceremony marking the fortieth anniversary of Sauder Village on the Village Green of Sauder Village on June 14. With the morning clouds having given way to blue skies, the setting became idyllic for the ceremony that honored the dream of Erie Sauder that captured the history, heritage and hard work that built our area. Spangler went on to recognize the Sauder family members in attendance, as well as the many employees who have been at the Village since the very beginning.
Kris Jemmott, Director of Historic Village Operations, introduced Randy Buckman, the retired Professor Emeritus at Defiance College/Historian, who reflected about the time that he spent with Erie Sauder, bringing his dream into fruition.
“I caught a dream,” Buckman began. “That dream was in one individual’s mind, and that was Erie Sauder. Erie spoke to me several times about his dream, and he asked me if I knew of anybody that could give him some understanding and some help. I went back to some of my colleagues from when I was on the staff of the Ohio Historical Society, and I invited a gentleman by the name of Joe Thatcher to come down and talk with Erie. They spent about two hours together. Joe came out and said that it will never happen. My reply was, you don’t know Erie Sauder. It happened. Erie gathered around him the people that he needed to make it happen, and it happened. What it has meant to Northwest Ohio is so significant in bringing back the ethics and the culture that Erie Sauder felt permeated Northwest Ohio. The impact for your children and mine to have this experience, to understand our heritage of work and effort in producing something that is valuable to the community. You have a great gift here.”
Erie Sauder’s granddaughter, Debbie David, the President and CEO of Sauder Village, came forward and said, “Forty years ago, I was a college student home for the summer, and so excited to put on my costume and be a costumed interpreter for the very first season in the opening of my grandpa’s place.” Reflecting back on the opening of Sauder Village, David called out several in attendance who, like her, have been with the Sauder Village since its inception. “When Randy, Kris and Dean mentioned the inspiration of a man like Erie Sauder, what a legacy that was. What a privilege it was for me to be his oldest grandchild, and to watch him in action. A storyteller, a dreamer, a visionary, but also a doer…he got it done. He cared about the next generation. He realized, reflected and honored those who went before him, because he knew that they made a difference in his life.”
LuAnne Cooke, Northwest Ohio Regional Liaison for Governor John R. Kasich’s Office, came forward to read an official proclamation from the Governor. Kathy Shaver, Deputy District Director from Congressman Robert E. Latta’s office, read a proclamation from the Congressman, and also presented a flag that was flown over the United States Capitol in honor of the Sauder Village Fortieth Anniversary celebration. In doing so, another historical connection was made, as Latta’s father, former Congressman Del Latta, made a similar presentation to Erie Sauder when the Village opened in June of 1976. Senator Randy Gardner was also on hand, and shared words of congratulations and a proclamation from the Ohio Senate. “It has been a real blessing to represent the people in Fulton County,” Senator Gardner said. “They are wonderful people who care about the history and heritage of this region.”
After the conclusion of the ceremony, guests were invited to spent time sharing special memories about Sauder Village and tour the Historic Village. Seeing the expressions of wonderment upon the faces of the children as they walked from building to building, one could see that the dream and the vision of Erie Sauder from four decades ago was alive, well and still reverberating with passion to this very day.
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org