One of the Northland's iconic pitchmen as well as a Midwest broadcast pioneer has passed away at the age of 91.  Ray Szmanda - who for more than 40 years was the face and voice of Menards television and radio commercials passed away Sunday, May 6 from undisclosed causes near his home in Antigo in central Wisconsin.

While most people were familiar with the personality Szmanda played for Menards (think blue sweater, large black-framed glasses), he had a deep and varied career in broadcasting.  His radio career started back in the early 1950's.  From 1959 until the late 1970's, he operated a broadcasting school called Trans-American School of Broadcasting in Wausau, Wisconsin - a facility that taught the trade to many up-and-coming broadcasters.  He even acted in a feature film.

It was during the end of that period that he assumed his most-remembered role.  In 1976, Szmanda first started pitching for Menards on television, radio, newspapers, even billboards.