FINLEY POINT - Wearing his cap and vest, Ed Thorsrud tipped his wings one last time in the early morning hours of March 27, waving goodbye to his cabin on Finley Point and bidding friends and family farewell, seemingly eager to embark on one more exhilarating flight.
While Ed will be sorely missed by many family members and friends who benefited from his gentle kindness and generosity of spirit, we are comforted to imagine his reunion with Deanne, the love of his life, who passed away 32 years ago. Ed died at the age of 84 of natural causes.
Ed was born August 5, 1922, in Watford City, N. D., son of Norwegian immigrants and brother to Garfield, Jennie and Sverre (Sam). In 1927, the Thorsrud family moved to Missoula. His Norwegian skiing heritage led him to explore the Montana alpine long before the advent of ski lifts. He attended Missoula County High School where he competed in the very first high school ski meets, competing in both alpine and nordic events.
After graduating from high school, Ed trained as a smoke jumper and became a member of the second group of smoke jumpers in United States history. World War II had begun and he quickly was promoted to teach military personnel how to pack chutes even though he was only 18. He joined the war effort immediately following the fire season.
During World War II, Ed flew for the Army Air Corps ferrying troops and cargo from England to the Continent. After the war, Ed returned to Missoula where he enrolled in the University of Montana under the GI Bill.
During college, skiing continued to play a big role in Ed's life. He even met his future wife while skiing, when he gave Deanne a lift up to Big Mountain. After many more skiing adventures with friends and family, Ed had a bride from Plains and together they had a full but all-too-brief life together with four wonderful children.
Flying was Ed's passion and his livelihood. He was a pioneer in the early days of mountain aviation, flying various planes, including Tri-Motors and DC3s for Johnson Flying Service into remote mountain airstrips. He delivered essential cargo to the backcountry and transported smoke jumpers and firefighters to fires throughout the west. There was no airstrip too short or rugged for Ed to handle.
In the mid '50s when the business of aerial fire fighting was in its infancy, he flew specially equipped Ford Tri-Motors on slurry missions for Johnson. This experience led him to invest in his own slurry planes, including a TBM and B25. He dropped retardant for years in Alaska, Montana and Idaho, taking him away from his family for long absences during the fire season.
This provided Deanne ample excuse to move the family to Flathead Lake for the summers - a Thorsrud tradition that continues today. Eventually Ed moved to Finley Point full time, settling into one of the many homes he and son Lloyd built in their years working together. Summers at the lake were always busy and filled with visiting family and friends. His dog, a cup of coffee, good radio reception and a view of the Bird Islands were about all Ed needed to be content over the quiet, solitary winters at the lake. It helped to know that the next bustling family summer was never far around the corner
Along with wife Deanne, Ed was preceded in death by sister Jennie, brother Sam, and several faithful four-legged friends including Easter and Halley. He leaves behind his children Lloyd (Claudia) Thorsrud, Darci (Lane Coddington) Thorsrud, Tana (Onno) Wieringa, Betty (Skip) Higgins; his brother Garfield (Audrey) Thorsrud; grandkids Siri, Shay, Casey and Kyle; and numerous nieces, nephews and longtime friends.
Although often stoic and solitary, Ed loved his friends and showed kindness to all he met. "The more the merrier" is how he welcomed the many visitors to his Flathead Lake home, and "the more the merrier" is how his family would like to welcome you to a service and reception to celebrate Ed's life. The service takes place at 4 p.m. Friday, April 20, at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, with a reception following at Shadow's Keep. In lieu of flowers, gifts in Ed's memory can be made to the Museum of Mountain Flying, 713 S Third St W, Missoula, MT 59801.