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Nearing 90, Wes Ediger is a local sports legend
Longtime Salem-Keizer Administrator and ex-OSAA Director to be honored in June
Fast approaching his 90th birthday, Wes Ediger has lived an amazing life so far—a life that has revolved around sports and around teenagers, especially in the Salem-Keizer area.
Born in September of 1933, Wes grew up in the Dallas area west of Salem. Raised with a solid work ethic and farm animals all around him, Wes worked with his hands his entire life—and still does today, with a small woodworking shop at home to allow him to pursue various projects.
Ediger’s approach to life involved great energy and enthusiasm, with a youthful love of sports and competition shared with his older brother Mel. Wes grew into a 6 foot, 3 inch 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. Known by his teammates as “Bear,” Wes was known for his large hands and his dogged determination on the football field. 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 that day, and Wes had a 50 yard pass reception to set up the only score in the game.
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 pain from chronic back injuries. Ediger returned to his hometown of Dallas—turning down another offer to play in Canada—and instead taught science to teens in Dallas while also coaching young men for the Dragons’ athletic programs. He called coaching 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. He then shifted into administration with the Salem Public School District. After serving as a vice principal for several years, 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 as principal at rival North Salem High—where he served until 1986. He wrapped up his career in Salem Keizer as the assistant director of secondary schools and athletics for three years.
A man of all-trades, 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 for eight years.
And in between all of these decades of hard work, Ediger still found time to do woodworking, to root for his New York Yankees, to tinker with his beloved Chevrolet Corvettes, and to show and compete his Appaloosa horses to five world championships and two national championships.
And remember—Wes doesn’t light the candles on his 90th birthday cake for about three more months.
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.”
In word and deed, Wes Ediger has shown himself to be a staunch defender of Oregon athletics and locally—in Salem and Keizer—a Beacon.
Wes Ediger and eight other long time local sports contributors will be honored by the Salem-Keizer Beacons organization on Saturday, June 17 at Salem’s Elsinore Theater. The reception for honorees begins at 6:30 pm, with the actual event set for 7:00 pm. More details and ticket information can be found online here.