Erie J. Sauder, 92, founder of Sauder Woodworking Co. and the originator of the ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture industry, died in his Archbold, Ohio home on Sunday, June 29. A pioneer in the furniture industry, Sauder is credited for having invented a "snap-together" table that eventually revolutionized how millions of people would buy furniture.
Born August 6, 1904, Sauder spent his entire life in the northwest Ohio Mennonite community of Archbold. In 1934, he started a small woodworking business that grew into Sauder Woodworking Co., currently the nation's leading producer of ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture and the sixth largest manufacturer of furniture in North America. In addition to its RTA furniture business, Sauder Woodworking also is parent to two subsidiary companies, including Sauder Manufacturing, the country's largest manufacturer of church furniture and a leading producer of institutional seating, and Archbold Container, a producer of packaging material. Sauder served as Chairman of the Board of Sauder Woodworking until his death.
A man of deep faith and a giving spirit, Sauder involved himself in a variety of community and philanthropic projects. In 1976, he founded Sauder Farm and Craft Village in Archbold, an 80-acre non-profit living history museum created to preserve the lifestyle of the pioneers who settled the Great Black Swamp area of northwest Ohio. Additionally, he was a founder of the Mennonite Economic Development Association, through which Mennonite volunteers enabled Soviet and German World War II refugees to develop the wasteland of Chaco, Paraguay, into habitable and profitable land. Sauder made 18 visits to the Chaco, working with the native Paraguayan Indians to develop their colonies.
Sauder was a lifetime member of the Mennonite Church. He was supportive and active in the congregations of the Central, Tedrow and Bancroft Mennonite Churches and most recently the Pine Grove Mennonite Church.
Sauder possessed a true community spirit. He also was honored by the countless organizations for his overall dedication and generosity.
Sauder is survived by his wife, Orlyss, three sons, Delmar, Maynard (Carolyn) and Myrl (Freida), all of the Archbold area, and stepdaughter Elaine (Dave) Graber.
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