Ed Pranger was born on June 28, 1912 in Hillsboro, Oregon, and died on February 7, 2012 at San Juan Care Center in Anacortes, Washington at the age of 99 years, 7 months.
He was the third of five children, born to Francis (Frank) Leo Pranger and Mary Elizabeth Sohler Pranger. Ed grew up in Hillsboro during the Depression.
He called himself an Oregon farm boy, wood cutter, cannery worker, sign painter, navy cartoonist, and commercial artist. Even as a child, he was a gifted artist. He sent drawings to the local newspaper, which paid him 50 cents whenever they published one.
As a young man, Ed and most of his family moved to Yakima, WA to work in the canneries. His artistic talent led him to work in a sign shop, painting signs on trucks, buildings and billboards. When the owner retired, he and his friend, Carl Fenner, bought the sign shop.
Ed joined the Navy in 1942, and spent 4 years in the service during WWII. He was stationed in San Diego, working for the Recruit Training Command. He was a Navy artist and cartoonist, receiving Letters of Commendation for his work on bulletins, operations charts, training and propaganda posters, and illustrations. His cartoons were published in The Hoist, Wing Tips, and civilian newspapers. They were copied by other publications, sometimes used in official Navy training publications, and were applauded for “maintaining the morale of all hands at a high level.” He received fan mail from all over the world.
After the war, Ed returned to Yakima, WA, and re-opened the Fenner and Pranger sign shop, branching out into drawing advertising for early television.
He married Mary Talbot Helliesen, a Yakima native, and they had three children. The family lived in Yakima until moving to Los Gatos, CA, in 1956. Ed opened a commercial art and silk screen printing business in San Jose, CA. They raised their kids in Los Gatos, and were active members of the Santa Clara Valley Horseless Carriage Club. They restored old cars, dressed the family in antique clothes, took part in antique car tours, and made many good friends.
After the kids grew up, Ed and Mary enjoyed renovating and spending time at their beach cabin in Capitola. In 1980, after retiring, Ed and Mary moved back to Washington State. They built a house in Anacortes, overlooking the Guemes Channel, and lived there for 30 years. In 2010, after more than 60 years of marriage, Mary passed away.
Ed’s only formal art training was the Famous Artists Schools correspondence course. He was primarily self-taught, learning silk screen printing, glass etching, metal etching, engraving, and painting on his own.
Nearing retirement, he began engraving fancy scrollwork on wheel rims for low-rider cars. He also engraved on motorcycle parts, belt buckles, pistols, rifles, pocket knives, brass vases, candlesticks, plaques, and almost anything else made of metal. He invented a method using photo-engraving to restore the lettering on gun parts; and even made a video showing how to do it. Ed also painted names on boats, and pin-striped antique cars.
After retiring, Ed began painting pictures as a hobby. He used thrift store frames, and often painted over existing canvasses. He said that the correspondence course had taught him to never paint “just backgrounds.” All of his paintings had a story going on, whether humorous, nostalgic, or sad. There were hunting scenes, wildlife, farm animals, kids walking to school, people ice skating, digging for clams, fishing, farming, logging, and bringing home the Christmas tree.
He painted more than 250 acrylic paintings in his retirement years. Many of them have been displayed and sold at Marine Supply Hardware in Anacortes, along with prints, note-cards, and occasionally engraved pieces.
Ed’s talents in painting and engraving were the subject of several newspapers articles. In a column in the Seattle P.I., John Hahn called him a folk artist and tourist attraction, referring to his artwork on display at Marine Supply Hardware. Ed’s style was described as “Grandma Moses meets the Far Side.” He also illustrated several books, as well as magazine and book covers.
Ed noted that his other hobbies were crabbing from the docks, and taking lots of naps. He was a curious, creative, inventive, funny man, as well as a talented artist. He always had a joke or story to tell, even to the hospital and nursing home staff.
Ed is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Monica and Curt Oppel of Anacortes, his son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Beth Pranger of Brookfield, CT, and his daughter and son-in-law Connie Pranger and Val Greene of Oroville, CA. Ed leaves seven grandchildren and one great-grandson. They include Meadow Eggleston (and her husband, Troy, and son Owen) in CA, Cory Oppel in Anacortes, Casey, Amanda, and Roger Greene in CA, and Jennifer and Cody Pranger in CT. He also leaves behind many nieces, nephews, their children, grandchildren, and many kind friends.
He is preceded in death by his parents, by his brothers Gus and Nick Pranger, and by his sisters Helen Smith and Skat Thwaite.
No memorial service was held.
Please take a walk at the beach and enjoy the view from the bench that has been placed at Kiwanis Waterfront Park to honor Ed and Mary. The park is next to The Guemes Ferry dock, and the bench is at the top of the path.
The family wishes to thank the very kind and skilled staff of San Juan Care Center, and Dr. Oliver Stalsbroten, for the loving care and support that they provided to Ed and his family.
Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel and Crematory, Inc., Anacortes, WA and the San Juan Islands. To share memories of Edward, please sign the online guest register at www.evanschapel.com.
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