Friends and family mourn the loss of Bob Saunier, the developer and real estate expert responsible for developing significant parts of McAlester.
Saunier, 89, died at his McAlester residence on May 21. A celebration of life and visitation service is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday, May 27 at Brumley-Mills Funeral Home in McAlester.
He and his wife, Drue, founded First Realty, known as one of the oldest full-service real estate companies in southeast Oklahoma.
Saunier began development activities in McAlester in 1962 with the development of two of the town’s major housing estates. It started with the Redbud Acres subdivision and continued with the development of the Green Meadows subdivision. Together, the two subdivisions contained over 550 residences.
Saunier’s impact on McAlester went far beyond his career as a developer and real estate maven. He also played a major role in the development of some of the city’s parks, serving for over 26 years as chairman of the McAlester Parks Board, as well as other city committees and councils.
“He will be greatly missed,” McAlester Mayor John Browne said. “He had a big impact on the city,” especially on the city’s parks, the mayor said.
“Rotary Park at Stipe Center was basically his baby from the start,” Browne said. “He didn’t just start, he stuck with it and made sure to report if anything needed to be done.” Rotary Park includes the Rotary Walking Trail and the Rotary Park Amphitheater, as well as the Rotary House. He and his wife, Drue, were also responsible for adding water to the park and named it Debra Saunier Pond, in memory of one of their children.
Saunier also contributed to other improvements to city parks.
“He definitely had a love for the city and the park system,” Browne said.
Randy Saunier said his father’s love of parks dates back to when Bob Saunier was a child in Enid.
Enid has a great park system and his dad wanted that for McAlester, Randy Saunier said.
“He grew up near parks,” Randy Saunier said. Once Bob Saunier started working for Rotary Park, others got involved as well. The McAlester Rotary Club and the Town of McAlester helped purchase the land, he said.
Bud Hale donated money to build the amphitheater. Skipper Young donated money for the park pavilion and Dr. Eddie Greenberger donated money for another addition to the park. The inclusion of Rotary House was intended to provide a place to stay for those whose family members were long-term patients at McAlester Regional Health Center.
It all started when his father grew up next to this park in Enid, noted Randy Saunier.
“He was community-minded,” Randy Saunier said.
Bob Saunier belonged to a number of clubs and civic organizations, including the McAlester Rotary Club and the Scottish Rite. He was a senior member of the McAlester Board of Realtors and a life member of the Masonic Lodge, Han Yang 1048 in Seoul, Korea.
Bob Saunier was born in Enid in 1932. Saunier played in the Enid High School Band and his future wife, Drue, served as Queen of the band. Bob and Drue Saunier were married on December 22, 1951 and celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary in 2021.
“He was a wonderful man,” said his daughter Pam Husky. “He and mom have had a remarkable life together.”
After their marriage, Bob Saunier entered the United States Army in 1952. The young couple traveled across the United States to various Army bases while Saunier spent several years on active duty. His military service which included a stint in Korea during the Korean War. During his military career, Saunier rose through the ranks from private to colonel.
His military career included service as a mobilization officer on the Army General Staff at the Pentagon’s Army Operations Center. Saunier also held a special designation as a dual-qualified Army aviator and nuclear weapons employment officer. Saunier flew jets and helicopters.
When Bob Saunier returned to the United States, the Sauniers moved to Stillwater to complete their education at Oklahoma State University.
As Bob Saunier continued to serve in active military service, they purchased land near Indianola to pursue their dream of establishing a cattle ranch.
They moved to McAlester in 1959, where they started an insurance company, which evolved into investing in real estate. Around this time Bob and Drue began to develop neighborhoods in the city and they also started First Realty.
In addition to the Redbud and Green Meadows developments, Saunier and First Realty have developed numerous apartment buildings, commercial buildings, motels and other properties.
The Sauniers raised four children: Pam, Steve (Robert S.), Debbie and Randy. Randy Saunier today operates First Realty, which continues to develop parts of the city.
“He was my hero and the hero of others too,” said Randy Saunier.
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.