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James Edson McCanse

James Edson (Ed) McCanse, 83, Oregon, died on Friday, March 1, 2013 at Pinecrest Nursing Home, Mt. Morris.

He was born in La Grande, Oregon on July 2, 1929, to parents Edson Rodney (sheep rancher, farmer, miner, pilot, lumberman, businessman) and Lydia Sailor McCanse (teache, rancher wife, bridge player.)

Little Eddie enjoyed the freedoms and benefited from the responsibilities of ranch living.

Eddie loved hunting, horses, fishing, machines, and – with his father — flying (trained at 14, licensed at 16).

During Ed’s junior year at La Grande High School, tiny Lillian Griffin (newly relocated from Texas) caught his attention.

Ed invited her to the ranch for a trail ride, and “the rest is history.”

The couple eloped shortly before Ed left for Oregon State University.

During the years they lived in Corvallis and as Ed earned his agricultural engineering degree, they had three children, Sandra Joanne, James Rodney, and Donald Edson.

After college, Ed began his career on the ranch (and son Richard Lee was born), but within a few years a gun accident disabled his right hand, forcing a career change.

Ed stated later in life that the close brush with death and the near loss of his hand was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Ed returned to the university where he completed the course work for a masters in mechanical engineering.

After the addition of youngest son Bruce Dean, Ed was hired by John Deere and the family moved to Moline, Ill.

Ed worked for Deere for five years, gaining an understanding and appreciation for the professional management of engineering processes and design changes, training which proved invaluable.

In Moline, the family was introduced to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Ed embraced the teachings of stewardship, personal responsibility, and salvation, and forever after expressed that the church gave his life meaning and justified his survival of the gun accident.

His appreciation of, love for, and involvement in the church never wavered.

He eventually became a member of the lay priesthood and served as the pastor of the Rockford congregation for at least one year.

In 1962 Ed was hired by Wood Brothers Manufacturing in Oregon, Ill., as the chief engineer.

He managed – or directly designed – their complete product line of rotary mowers for 20 years.

Ed’s classic designs continue to be the backbone of Wood’s Implements product lines.

During his career, Ed earned dozens of patents and is personally responsible for the design of the well-known Batwing mower, at the time a breakthrough concept. Ed and Lillian and family loved the Oregon area and enthusiastically claimed Oregon as their hometown.

A few highlights are St. Mary’s bridge club, Ed’s 44-year membership in Rotary, his involvement in initiating the annual Autumn on Parade festival, and his and Lil’s involvement in the Chana School project.

In 1968, before the word “taco” was well-known in northern Illinois, Ed helped Lil start the “Texas Tacos” stand at the Ogle County Fair and then a short-lived Tex-Mex restaurant in Rockford.

Tacos became a constant theme for Ed and Lil – and for friends and children - and “tacos” is the McCanse family meal.

In 1968 Ed and Rick, with Rod's and Don’s help during college vacations, built the family home, personally tackling all tasks except for framing, laying carpet, and pouring concrete.

The full basement later became a playground extraordinaire for their 20 grandchildren, and then was converted to office space for nine when they started their own businesses.

Ed and Lil loved their home for the entire 44 years they lived in it.

In 1969, Hesston Corporation purchased Woods from the brothers.

A few years later, the new owners decided to move all production from Woods to their headquarters in Hesston, Kansas.

Ed helped initiate and was president of a “Save Woods” movement, which fought against the loss of jobs.

Unfortunately, they failed - Hesston moved production to Kansas. Fortunately for Oregon, Hesston failed worse.

They were unable to match the production quality of the Oregon team, and after a few years they were forced to move the entire production line back.

Ed spent his last six years at Woods as the quality assurance and safety manager.

In that role, he participated in the creation of international standards for the agricultural industry.

About then, and unfortunately just as the farming industry was entering a crisis period, Ed, with son Rick, began a short-lived farming operation.

After, he would claim that his good job at Woods allowed him to feed his farming habit.

After retirement from Woods in 1988, Ed and Lil and Rick started an engineering company, McCanse Engineering, Inc., that provided contract design service, safety training (the integration of product safety into the design process), expert witness trial testimony and other engineering consulting services.

They also began a Christmas tree operation which exposed Ed to the need for new agricultural products: the Shakee (to remove clumps of dead needles from the trees), the Stumpee (to clear the land of the stumps of the cut trees), and the Heftee (an implement that lifts small mowers, golf carts, and other small wheeled vehicles for safe service and repair.)

Ed and Rick created and manufactured those machines. In 1999, they sold the business and Ed re-retired, this time finally.

After retirement Ed and Lil spent even more time enjoying their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

They also loved to travel with their family and for years gathered as many as could come either for a trip or for a stay at a lake – or both.

Ed and Lil traveled. Not only did Ed fly them all around the North American continent during the 20 years he had his own plane, they have also traveled commercially to — and extensively on — four other continents.

Retirement gave them time to reconnect with old friends and family; they loved spending some of the worst of winter with high school friends, siblings and cousins in Arizona or California.

Ed is survived by his wife of 65 years, Lillian; Sandi and David Wood, Audrey Wood (Blake), Loren and Lindsay (Watkins) Wood (Roux), Katie and Matt Znameroski (Tyler, Ingrid, Marci Wood, Jordan Wood; Rod and Donna (Tichler) McCanse, Betsy McCanse (Zoe Sherbet), KateAnne and Jon Van Lente (Susie, Drew, Courtney, Natalie, Conner), Andrew McCanse, Emily and Amir Rahemi (Lucas), Megan McCanse, Don and Jude (Bonavia) McCanse, Josie McCanse, Michael McCanse, Cara McCanse, Jackie McCanse, Hilary McCanse, Rick and Becky (Jansma) McCanse, Seth and Jessica (Marchbank) McCanse (Grayson), Anna and Jerome Nelson; Bruce and Sue (Slaughter) McCanse, Chris McCanse, Holly and Mike Banghart (Clarissa), C.J. McCanse; and sisters, Margie (Woody) Kaufman, Bonnie (Leal) Graham, and Audrey (David) Cummings.

He was preceded in death by his parents and an infant brother, Donald Rodney.

The funeral service was held on March 4 at Farrell-Holland-Gale Funeral Home, Oregon, followed by a light lunch at Oak Lane, 3261 S Daysville Rd, Oregon.

Instead of flowers, expressions of sympathy can take the form of a donation to the Community of Christ Church in Rockford, the Oregon Rotary Angel Fund, the Alzheimer’s Foundation, or a charity of the giver’s choice.

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