Well-known Vinton County businessman and Campbell's Market General ManagerGarry Saunders, who had both local- and national-level grocery-store management experience, passed away unexpectedly on Monday, April 19 at 55 years of age

Before coming to Campbell’s in McArthur, he ran the grocery section of the former K-Mart Supercenter in Chillicothe for more than 20 years.

While a grocery store is always an important business in any community, the lack of one for almost five years, beginning when the Super Valu closed, became a central issue in Vinton County.?

The so-called local food desert endedwhen the Campbell family committed in late 2017 to establishing a grocery store in Vinton County. It led to a lot of state and regional press coverageas well as the creation of the new Healthy Food for Ohio ProgramThis programhelps operatorsopen stores in food-desert areas. The local Campbell’s Market opened with several regionalmedia outlets, along with 15th District Congressman Steve Stivers, being present.

Campbell’s Market family spokeswoman Beth Campbell explained placing Saunders at the helm is a decision they never once regrettedas he became more than just one of their managers.

The loss that our community and business suffered last week is heartbreaking,” Campbell stated. “Garry Saunders was not only our store manager, but he had become family.How lucky we were the day Garry contacted us, showing interest in working with us to grow our new McArthur Store. 

He treated the store as ‘his store and made sure his staff treated his customers with care and respect. Garry was one of the happiest people we have had the pleasure of meeting.He loved his customers and was often delivering orders to those who were no longer able to do their shopping. His love of family, friends, and community will leave a lasting impression on our family, staff, and business associates.

?Saunders was not only respected as a managerbut as a family and community man as well. His children -- Melissa Saunders, Ryan Saunders and Emily Caudill -- also shared some thoughts with?The Telegram.

“We are full of sadness with his passing-- as it was way too soon. they wrote in a joint statementWe were blessed with having an incredible dad who loved us profuselyWe cannot begin to discuss all of the memories we have with our father as there are many. We also cannot begin to thank the community and Campbell’s Market for the outpouring of love they have shown for our family.

Another person who worked extensively in ending the food desert was former Vinton County Commissioner Jerry Zinn. He appreciates the Campbell Family's willingness to open a store in Vinton County and asserts they made a good management choice. He notes the Campbells and Saunders made a good team.?

Garry had a great personality, and everybody liked him,” added Zinn. 

Zinn also noted it was a bonus to the Campbell’s that Garry had both the big-box store experience and hometown-touch combination.

“I had a conservation with Garry and he said the Campbells treated him just like family,” Zinn stated. 

The former commissioner wanted to thank former State Representative Ryan Smith and many local people for ending the food desertwhich led to Saunders heading up the local operation. While it is true Campbell’s will go on running a high-quality operation, Beth stated it will take a little time to fill some big shoes.?

“To say he will be missed is a huge understatement,” Beth Campbell saidPlease bear with our staff as we navigate our new normal without our leader.”