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Edwin Joseph Zapel

May 31, 1923 — June 10, 2023

Cle Elum, Washington

Edwin “Ed” Joseph Zapel, 100, passed away Saturday June 10, 2023 at 6:55 pm in Ellensburg, Washington surrounded by his three surviving children and his daughter-in-law (Rebekah, widow of son David). Ed was born the eldest of five children to Katherine Marie (Friss) Zapel and Edwin John Zapel in Chicago, Illinois on May 31, 1923. He is preceded in death by his loving wife (Betty), parents (Edwin and Katherine) all four of his siblings (Elizabeth, Arthur, Mary Ellen, and Robert) and his second son (David) who passed unexpectedly in 2008. He is survived by three of his four children; daughter Kathleen of Moxee, WA (George Marshall), son Edwin of Vashon Island, WA (Holly Zapel), son John of Chehalis, WA, and daughter-in-law Rebekah (Lonnie Roberts) of Cle Elum, WA. His nine grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren survive him.

His early childhood was spent in Chicago and upper Wisconsin before his family relocated to his mother’s birthplace of Fairbanks, Alaska in 1935 during the depths of the Great Depression to join his maternal grandparents there in the thriving gold mining economy of the area. Ed graduated from Fairbanks high school in 1941 and then enrolled in Pasadena Junior College in the fall of 1941, working at what would become the Jet Propulsion Laboratory through the winter of 1941. Following his freshman year of college at Pasadena Junior College he enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona for the fall semester of 1942 but postponed his university education to enlist in the United States Army in January 1943. He served the rest of World War II in the US Army Air Corps in the European theater, achieving the rank of Sargent, with many flight hours in B-17 bombers and commanding a platoon of technical bombsight specialists. Following his regular military service, he returned to the United States and soon married Betty Jean Adams on March 7, 1947 in Ephrata, Washington and they enjoyed 73 years together until her passing in June of 2020. He re-enlisted in the US Army Reserves upon his return to the US and went to work for the US Bureau of Reclamation at the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project and then at Hanford Nuclear Reservation, and then the Alaska Road Commission in the summer of 1948 surveying the route for the Taylor Highway from Tok, AK to Eagle, AK.

He returned to Spokane in 1949 where he completed his undergraduate education in Civil Engineering at Gonzaga University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in 1951. He continued to serve in the US Army Reserves until his honorable discharge that same year. After graduation from Gonzaga, Ed and Betty relocated to Burbank, California where he went to work for Lockheed Corporation in their Air and Space program, and where he and Betty were instrumental in the founding of an ELCA Lutheran church congregation in San Fernando. They moved to Seattle when Ed went to work for Boeing in 1954, again working in the aerospace program there. Ed and Betty moved their growing family to a rural property on Taylor Mountain near Hobart, Washington in 1965 and continued to work for Boeing in Seattle the rest of his career, with two stints in Wichita, KS and Tel Aviv, Israel. Ed and Betty were again instrumental in founding two ELCA Lutheran church congregations, first in Issaquah at Our Savior Lutheran Church, and again in Maple Valley at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. While working at Boeing for the next 40 years, Ed found time to complete a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering and subsequently complete his PhD studies in Aerospace Engineering, all at the University of Washington. Ed became an engineering manager on many notable projects, including the Saturn 5 rocket development for the Apollo program, the SST supersonic transport program, the F-4 Super Phantom fighter jet engine refit program, and the Star Wars satellite and airborne platform defense program initiated in the late 1980’s. He retired in the early 1990’s after a long and successful career in the aerospace industry, authoring numerous technical publications and presenting at multiple aerospace conferences in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East.

Ed wore many titles; husband, dad, brother, son and friend. His time away from career was invested in his time with his family working on their rural 40-acre property and taking care of his cherished family and loving wife of many years. He was also a Boy Scout leader, where his three sons all enjoyed learning and growing, Fishing and hunting were two of his favorite hobbies and many good memories were created with his family in these activities. Ed was the greatly loved patriarch of the Zapel family and will be missed.

A memorial service celebrating his life will be held later this summer at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, followed by a graveside service at the Hobart Cemetery, where his ashes will be interred with those of his wife of 73 years, joining those of his son David.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Johnston & Williams of Cle Elum. Online condolences may be left for the family at

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