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Originally published Monday, April 18, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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"Little Oscar" George Molchan dies at 82

When mourners began singing, "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener" during George Molchan's funeral, they meant no disrespect. Molchan, who died Tuesday...

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. — When mourners began singing, "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener" during George Molchan's funeral, they meant no disrespect.

Molchan, who died Tuesday at 82, portrayed the meat processor's spokesman, Little Oscar, for more than three decades, traveling from town to town in the company's Wienermobile to appear in parades and at supermarkets.

The 27-foot-long Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was parked Saturday near Molchan's grave at a cemetery in Merrillville, drawing smiles from dozens attending his memorial.

Before priests said the final prayers over Molchan's casket, about 50 mourners sang a chorus of the Oscar Mayer jingle and then blew short blasts on miniature, hot dog-shaped whistles.

Molchan was a bookkeeper for Pepsi Cola when "Wizard of Oz" munchkin actor Meinhardt Raabe persuaded him to try out for the role of Little Oscar, said Molchan's brother, Elmer.

The character was created in the 1930s by company founder Oscar Mayer to help market its products. Molchan played Little Oscar with relish for 36 years.

"He was just a terrific guy," said Bruno Lis.

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