The Grand Marshal of this year’s Woodlake Lions Rodeo is Woodlake’s own, much beloved Dick Edmiston. A familiar name and face to generations of community members, Dick has given of his time and energy to an array of local organizations. In fact, his extensive service to others in Woodlake and surrounding areas for more than 60 years made him the obvious choice as this year’s Grand Marshal.
Born in Elderwood, Dick attended Elderwood Elementary School and graduated from Woodlake High School in 1941. Work at the Sequoia Field north of Visalia, piqued his interest in airplanes and flying as a young man. After a brief time spent in the shipyards helping to build ships needed for the war efforts, Dick enlisted in the Air Force in the fall of 1942.
As a member of the 14th Air Force in the China campaign, Dick was a part of the famous Flying Tiger Group—a group that was among the first to strike back at the enemy after Pearl Harbor. Sergeant Edmiston very proudly served his country for four years and in 1946 returned as a local hero to Woodlake.
The hero soon wanted and needed a heroine—someone he could share his life with. He had flirted with a very special girl, Ruthie, during high school band practice. When he arrived home from the war, Dick looked up his Ruthie. A nice diamond ring and a beautiful gardenia corsage turned her head in his direction and they were married on March 1, 1947.
Dick and Ruthie soon began to build a family that grew to encompass two daughters, Susan and Becky, a son, Tom, and five grandchildren. Building is the operative word. Dick worked for the Visalia Planing Mill and then for Harley Lane, a local building contractor. He learned his trade quite well and went into business as a home builder himself. When he lost part of his arm while working in Sequoia National Park, Dick said, “Well, I don’t have to worry about hitting my fingers with a hammer anymore.” Obviously, one of the reasons for Dick’s success in business and in life is his ability to see the bright side in every experience.
Our Grand Marshal was not only a businessman of achievement, he worked tirelessly to serve the community of Woodlake. Dick served on the Woodlake Union Elementary School Board from 1962 through 1975. From 1969 to 1975 he was the Board’s President. During this 13-year service, he was involved in helping to build three new schools. Dick’s genuine interest in educational improvement and student opportunities was also illustrated by his service in the Woodlake High School Board from 1966 through 1977.
Dick’s commitment to the community went beyond his impressive support of our local schools. He served as a trustee of the Woodlake Presbyterian Church for nine years, and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Farmersville State Bank. He generously donated money to charities and religious organizations, while he also used his position as a business leader to help struggling local businesses and organizations. In fact, when the Woodlake Apostolic Church needed funds for relocation and rehabilitation of the church, Dick helped arranged several interest-free loans, ensuring that the congregation had a church that would no longer be plagued by floods. In 1981, he was the recipient of the Man of the Year Award from the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce.
What more can we tell you about our impressive Grand Marshal? Well, he is an active balloonist, a pilot and a collector of antique Fords. Dick is also a very talented gardener who enjoys creating bonsai arrangements. Need we say more? Quite simply, Dick Edmiston is a one-in-a-million guy and the perfect Grand Marshal of 51st Annual Woodlake Lions Rodeo.