Memories of Ed

Ed Schwisow hired Todd Gessele as a communication intern in June of 1992 fresh out of Walla Walla College to work at the Gleaner magazine. The following are some of Todd's reflections.

In Training

As a newly-wed with a studio apartment within walking distance of the union office, Todd didn’t have room for his 3x6 foot N-gauge model railroad layout, so he brought it to work and put in on the credenza behind his desk. Ed walked in, saw it and said, “What is this and what is it doing here?” 

Todd replied, “It is to remind me that I am in training!” He grunted, “Always remember to blow your own whistle, because nobody else will!” 

Ed believed the church and church leaders should welcome controversy, challenges and rise to the occasion or get out of the way. As much as he was into word-smithing, Ed demanded and expected action and mission alignment. 

Break-in 

Ed loved words. Words like sincere, unapologetically socially-awkward, brilliantly bilingual and the phrase, “I am a productive procrastinator under pressure."

Ed’s pride and joy as a Christian writer and journalist was his 40-pound dictionary which rested on a wooden dictionary stand on the back credenza of his office. 

There once was an office break-in, and the thieves entered through the window in Ed’s office. It was a bumbled amateur robbery, they made off with the office HP ink jet printer, but stashed it just outside the building. During the robbery, the thieves desecrated the dictionary by ripping pages from the P & Q section of Ed's prize tome. Thereafter, the phrase "mind your P&Q’s” always produced giggles in the office. 

Ed: The Bicycler, Commuter and Perpetual Used-Car Mechanic

Ed would often bike to the office on Portland, Oregon's NE Burnside Road from his home in Sandy. Then he changed into his silver herringbone sports coat. One day, he only partially changed and obliviously walked into worship wearing his sports jacket and shorts!

Ed was a wealth of knowledge when it came to buying and trading used cars. It was always an adventure traveling with Ed to find stories to report. He understood Ford Escorts and Datsuns and employees with car troubles. He taught me, "if you must be there to get the story, rent a car and leave your old car at home."

Standing by your guy

Ed and Todd were filming in Fairbanks, Alaska for a story when a drunk man came up behind Todd who had his eye to the camera’s viewfinder, and tried to grab at the camera away from Todd’s shoulder. Ed, who was a few feet away directing, flew into action and yelled, “Hey! Leave my man alone!” He followed his yell with a marshal-arts-style kick that connected with man's backside. 

"I can still see the whole thing in slow motion," said Todd. "I turned just enough when the guy grabbed my camera and saw Ed’s great stance that landed a flying kick." It was Ed's Karate Kid moment of fame. The guy wandered off across the Fairbanks Plaza muttering gibberish.

Appreciating Ed

It wasn’t until Todd learned conversational Spanish and spent time in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, where Ed grew up as a missionary kid, that he began to understand and appreciate Ed for the Latino man he really was.

Ed had come to the United States in his late teens, and transitioning to the American culture proved difficult for Ed, a bilingual Walla Walla College student. He loved theology and editing letters to the editor, especially if they sparked or signaled a possible controversy.

"He lived life haphazardly with purpose and dedication," said Todd. "You could count on Ed. You could count on controversy and fiercely independent religious journalism which called all to action and accountability, in a cruel world where not everyone appreciates being challenged to do better."

Featured in: July/August 2022

Author

Todd Gessele

Former North Pacific Union associate communication director
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