Fast approaching his 90th birthday, Wes Ediger has “cut a wide swath”, living an amazing life - a life that has revolved around sports, around teenagers, and around education, especially in the Salem-Keizer area.
Born in September of 1933, Wes grew up in the Dallas, Oregon area west of Salem. Raised with a solid work ethic and farm animals all around him, Wes has never been afraid of physical labor. Wes is a doer. Given a task, he concentrated on that task until it was not only completed but completed well. That standard of excellence, of diving in to fix problems, to not only do a job but to do it exceptionally, and his dedication to high school athletics and its athletes, no matter where he applied his efforts, make him a Beacon.
Ediger’s approach to life involved great energy and enthusiasm, with a youthful love of sports and competition that he shared with his older brother Mel. Wes grew into a 6'3” tall physical specimen - becoming an outstanding athlete at Dallas High School, and, eventually, a top college football player as an offensive and defensive-end for the Oregon State Beavers. Given the nickname "Bear" by his teammates, he was known for his large hands and his dogged determination on the football field. (And for anyone who has shaken hands with Wes and had their hand engulfed by his “paw”, the nickname “Bear” seems very appropriate!) A popular young man, Wes was humbled when several hundred residents caravanned to the newly opened Parker Stadium to watch their hero play in the first game played there. The local newspaper dubbed the whole event as “Wes Ediger Day.” The Beavers shutout Washington State 7-0, with Ediger catching a 50-yard pass that he took to the ball to the Cougar 1-yard line setting up the game's only score.
Wes’s gridiron success turned into a chance to play in the National Football League after graduating from OSU in 1954. It was an opportunity that was cut short when Ediger was drafted into the army before he could finish his first season with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Upon completion of his two years of military service, Wes again pursued a career in professional football, signing with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. But after a couple of seasons, he called it a career due to chronic pain due to back injuries. Ediger returned to his hometown of Dallas, turning down another offer to play in Canada to instead teach science to teens at Dallas High School while also coaching in the Dragons’ athletic programs. Ediger saw coaching as his way of being a positive influence on kids in the community.
After his initial stint as a teacher at Dallas, Wes moved to Corvallis High School for four years as a counselor before shifting into administration with the Salem Public School District. Following a few years serving as a vice principal, Ediger was eventually named principal of South Salem High School in 1972. It was a role he relished for a decade before district officials named him principal at rival North Salem High—where he served until 1986. Ediger's final three years in the now Salem-Keizer School District were as the Assistant Director of Secondary Schools and Athletics.
A man of all trades and, again, not afraid of work, Wes spent some time driving truck for family before agreeing in 1993 to serve as Executive Director of the Oregon School Activities Association - overseeing athletics and extracurricular events statewide. He distinguished himself in that position for eight years before finally embracing retired life.
And in between all of these decades of hard work, Ediger still has found time to continue woodworking (an activity he pursues to this day), to root for his New York Yankees, to tinker with his beloved Chevrolet Corvettes, and to show and compete with his Appaloosa horses in five world and two national championships.
And remember - Wes doesn’t light the candles on his 90th birthday cake for about three more months. A life full of accomplishment.
A member of both the Dallas High School Hall of Fame and South Salem High School Hall of Fame, Ediger’s enthusiastic endorsement of prep athletics over the decades comes without apology, as he preaches the evidence that kids become better people as they participate in sports, especially team sports.
“In today’s uncertain world, kids need to feel like they belong,” says Wes. “Sports participation can be an asset to many troubled kids, and I have encouraged those kids to be involved in athletics and the arts.”