Obituary: Wayne A. Edsall

Posted at 12:36 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 14:36:52-05

Wayne A. Edsall, 89, died at home in Bozeman on February 8, 2019.

Wayne was born in Bozeman on March 22, 1929, the son of Ollie and Martha Edsall.  He grew up in Bozeman, Missoula, Billings, and Everett, Washington. After graduating from Gallatin County High School in 1947 he enlisted in the Navy and served four years in the SeaBees in Guam and at the Nuclear Test Site in Nevada, witnessing 13 nuclear blasts, during which he said he could see the bones in his hands when the blast went off.  In 1952 he won a personal commendation from the Director of the U.S. Naval Radiological Defense Laboratory for the work he performed at the test site.

While in the Navy, he married Marcia Manley. After being discharged they moved to Anchorage, Alaska where he worked on the construction of the hospital on the Elmendorf Air Force Base. In 1955 they returned to Bozeman where Wayne worked for Haggerty Messmer before starting Edsall Construction Company in 1959He began by building spec homes, and by the time he retired in 1994 he had worked in all of the western United States, winning the U.S. Small Business Administration Award for Excellence in 1990, and winning awards for his work on the Waste Water Treatment Plant in Bozeman, the remodeling of the Old Faithful Lodge in Yellowstone National Park, and the Laundry Facility in Zion National Park, among others. Perhaps the commendation he was most proud of was from the U.S. Department of the Interior for the reconstruction of Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site on the border of Montana and North Dakota in 1987.

He was active in the community.  He was elected to the Bozeman School Board in 1968 and in 1977 he joined the board of the First Security Bank on which he served for 29 years.

In his early years, he was a stock car racing enthusiast, part of a team of friends who built and drove a Ford Coupe with the number 41T, painted pink and nicknamed “Flower Power,” appearing every Sunday in the summers at the Three Forks and Belgrade Speedways, often winning the annual Championship Race.

But his true passion was always aviation. In the course of his life, he rebuilt and flew 13 antique airplanes, including his beloved 1932 Fleet Model 9 biplane, the only one left flying in the world. To honor the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII he flew his restored BT-13 training plane from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. circling around the Statue of Liberty in New York City.  He also had an instrument license and flew a Cessna 185, a twin-engine Cessna 340 and an aerobatic Citabaria among many others.

In 2000 he suffered a severe stroke and worked to recover from it with the goal to fly again.  He achieved that goal and the following summer flew his last long-range flight up the Yukon to the Arctic Circle.  He continued to fly, making his last flight through the Gallatin Valley on September 29, 2017.

He is preceded in death by his wife, Marcia.  He is survived by his son, Steve and his wife, Mia, of Bellevue, ID; his granddaughter, Anna Edsall of Santa Barbara, CA; his daughter, Susan Edsall and her partner, Jim Bingham, of Kailua Kona, HI; his daughter, Sharon Cohen of Spokane, WA; and his son-in-law, Jeffrey Cohen of Spokane, WA.

A Celebration of Life service will be held on Monday, February 25, at 11:00 a.m. at the Emerson Auditorium. A reception will follow in the adjacent ballroom. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make donations to the Marcia Edsall Scholarship Fund through the Montana Community Foundation, 33 S. Last Chance Gulch, Ste. 2a, Helena, MT 59601; or to the charity of your choice.

Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service.