Susan Edmonds said that some people referred to her brother Wayne Milnes as the Robin Williams of Branson, with his innate ability to play various characters at the drop of a hat.
With no disrespect to the late, famous actor/comedian, Milnes' classmate and longtime comedy partner, Ray Toler, goes even further.
“If he and Robin Williams were in the same room, Robin Williams would walk out with his head hung low,” Toler said. “Funniest guy I ever knew; the very funniest guy.”
Milnes – who with Toler had become a popular comedic performer in the metro area even before they graduated from William Chrisman High School in 1968, then took his talents to southwest Missouri for a long career there – died Saturday at the age of 68.
He is survived by his wife and three children, a brother and two sisters.
Edmonds said her brother was found dead at home by his wife, sleeping peacefully in his chair. His health had deteriorated the past few years after he retired in 2015.
Throughout his whole life, though, just about anybody who met Milnes came away smiling, Edmonds said.
“He wanted people happy,” she said. “That was his goal, to make people happy. He brought happiness to everyone with his entertainment.”
That started at home as a youth, she said, long before his Sammy B. Good hobo clown character on Springfield television or his many Silver Dollar City characters.
“He would make you smile, no matter how bad you felt,” said Edmonds, who lives in Blue Springs. “He was always cutting up.”
In high school, Milnes performed in the student productions, but more notably he and Toler formed a stand-up comedy team that performed around Independence and the metro area, including appearances on Channel 9's “Torey Time” kids show.
“He was the type of guy who was never not funny,” Toler said. “Our act together was very slapstick, and he was a perfect physical comedian. He had the rubber face, rubber man; he was in perfect control of his body.
“He could make his eyes roll in different directions at the same time.”
Milnes and Toler both went to Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State) in Springfield and took their act with them, soon getting jobs at Silver Dollar City as train robbers and street entertainers.
“We paid a lot of our way through school by doing our comedy act,” Toler said.
After about three years, Toler said, he started getting movie parts and their careers went in different directions, but Milnes stayed in Branson.
In addition to his Silver Dollar City characters, Milnes also hosted the late night horror show “Dr. Dead” for KMTC in Springfield in the 1970s, then played Sammy B. Good as the clown host of KSPR's children's show “Sammy's Place” from 1985-89.
In a message posted in response to Milnes' obituary online, one woman recalled taking her two young daughters to the KSPR studio and has watched the video many times over.
“Wayne could make any child speak, make any child comfortable and most importantly, make any child laugh,” the woman wrote. “He was a gentle and kind soul.”
According to his obituary, Milnes also traveled around to draw laughs at school assembly programs, birthday parties and many other local events before his retirement.
Toler said he was not able to make it to Milnes' memorial service Thursday in Branson, but he planned to give a eulogy during a previously planned reunion of Branson performers in late July.
“I planned on seeing Wayne then, but he made his exit early,” Toler said.
A person responding to Toler's Facebook post about Milnes' death, said that if laughter is a medicine, “Wayne was the pharmacy.”
Again Toler was willing to go further.
“He was the whole warehouse of drugs.”