Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Recent Death of Red Ryder

Davis Saunders as Red Ryder
The recent deaths of Hugh Hefner, Anne Jeffreys and other celebrities probably overshadowed the recent passing of David Saunders. It was Saunders who brought the comic-strip cowboy hero Red Ryder to life in countless public appearances, ranging from Ed Sullivan’s television show to the New Mexico State Fair. Saunders died September 6 at the age of 84, at an Albuquerque rehabilitation center.

Saunders was born in Indiana in 1933 but moved to Albuquerque with his family when he was still young. A significant turning point in his life happened when he met Fred Harman, creator of “Red Ryder,” a newspaper comic strip about a good-guy Colorado rancher (Ryder) and his young American Indian sidekick, Little Beaver.

Little Beaver Town, circa 1961

Saunders struck a friendship with the comic artist and when Harman started planning an Old West-themed amusement park for Albuquerque, he asked Saunders to portray Red Ryder. When the park, called Little Beaver Town, opened in the summer of 1961, on a 44-acre site, Saunders became the gun-slinging hero known to millions of radio listeners, theater goers and readers of the newspaper comic strip.

David Saunders in recent years

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