Merced Sun Star, Merced, CA. Monday, June 23, 1986. Page 1.

Bill Bedesen dead at 102.

By Jerry Griffith

Sun-Star Staff.

William E. "Bill" Bedesen, retired surveyor, engineer, historian and one of Merced County's best known and honored figures, is dead at the age of 102.

Bedesen, a lifetime resident of Merced, died Sunday at his West 21st Street home, where he had lived since 1908.

Services for Bedesen will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Chapel. The Merced Elks Lodge 1240 will be in charge of the services.

Burial will be in Merced District Cemetery.

When Bedesen was 83, he was asked how he explained his long life. Bedesen replied, "I can't explain it. I guess the Creator, or whoever it is that handles, those things, got my name mixed up someone else's. That's the only thing I can think of."

Through the years, Bedesen placed his mark in history of Merced County with his work as a draftsman and engineer.

His contributions include work on establishing Lake Yosemite, Hagaman, Henderson and other parks in the county.

Bedesen also designed many early schools in the county as well as the famed Bloss Home in Atwater. He also helped design the Central Presbyterian Church in Merced.

"Mr. Bedesen certainly was the dean of the engineering profession around here," said Don Ohlinger of the architectural-engineering firm of Larsen, Ohlinger & Holmes Inc., Merced.

"He was really an astute gentleman and was so well respected in this entire area", said Ohlinger.

Merced County Supervisor Al Gorman of Gustine said his death "is a terrific loss to all of us. We'll really miss him. He lived through a lot of Merced County history and many of us have through the history he made in the county."

Bedesen was born Feb 4, 1884 as the youngest of nine children, in a home on 19th Street.

He grew up in the years when Merced still had dirt streets and wooden sidewalks in the business district.

On his 100th birthday in 1984, Bedesen recalled that as a youngster he drove a horse-drawn wagon around Merced to deliver meat for the Banks and Bedesen Butcher Shop.

The business was started in the 400 block of Main Street in 1875, by his father, Philip Bedesen, in partnership with John Banks.

Bedesen was a member of the first graduating class at Merced County High School in 1903.

Among his classmates was Ada Givens, after whom the Merced elementary School was named.

He studied engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, but his studies were cut short when the San Francisco earthquake in 1906 disrupted life in the Bay area.

Bedesen returned to Merced to take a job as a draftsmen with the Yosemite Valley Railroad.

In 1907, he became deputy surveyor for Merced County.

He married his high school sweetheart, Jessie Abell, in 1908, and the couple moved into the East 21st Street home where Bedesen lived until his death.

By 1918, Bedesen had become county engineer, a job he held for 40 years. He was elected to the post nine times without opposition and retired Jan 5, 1975, at the age of 75.

Bedesen also operated a civil engineering firm many years in Merced.

Bedesen often entertained friends at private gatherings and service club audiences with stories about past times of this area and with poetry from many verses he memorized as a youngster. He said he learned these when his older sisters read to him.

He often said on of his favorite poems was this one;

Here I am past 90, now- young as I was at 7, I know.

Tis true, my hair is somewhat gray

And that I used a cane today.

And three rouges about my knee

Call me 'Grandpa' when they speak to me.

But bless my soul, I'm young as when

I fancied all were old at 10.

A little wiser grown,

Perhaps, some old illusions flown,

But wondering still as years have rolled,

'When is it that a man is old?'

Merced City Councilman Al Spriggs remembered Bedesen's love of poetry, as well as his contributions to the county.

"He was a great person and had such a keen sense of Merced and Merced County history. His memory was amazing and he could reel off so much poetry. He contributed so much not only to Merced but the entire county. He was a great asset to this area."

Bedesen was a member of the Cental Presbyterian Church, Merced Elks Lodge, Merced Rotary Club, California Engineers Association, Merced County Historical Society, University of California, Berkeley Alumni Association and the Phi Kappa Sigma chapter. He also was a director on the Merced District Cemetery Board.

Bettylou George, publicity chairman for the Merced County Historical Society said "as an historian, he was a walking encyclopedia. As a reciter of the poetry he had memorized, he excelled most of us in this generation."

T. Austin Melton, former assistant director of the Merced County Public Works Department may have summed Bedesen's contributions best, saying, " I think he left more of his mark on the city, the county area than anyone I know of. He will be missed so much."

He is survived by two daughters, Nancy Thorington of Merced and Rebecca Krifik of Carmichael; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Friends may call at the funeral home until 9 p.m. tonight and Tuesday and until 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The family would appreciate memorial contributions to the Merced County Historical Society. Contributions can be left at the funeral home.

Transcribed by: Alma Stone