OBITUARY: Edwin Gressel

Edwin Herschel Gressel left this Earth without apology or regret on May 29, 2022.

Ed always seemed ready for the impossible and the next big thing, but we were not nearly ready for his departure. At the young age of 70, he managed to beat cancer, COVID, a host of oil field accidents and bar fights, and a lifetime of cigarettes and beer, only to ultimately succumb to a rare infliction of a nerve-debilitating condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

He would have hated this obituary – or any obituary – but he also would have agreed he was dead and it didn’t matter what he thought.

Born Oct. 10, 1951, in Great Bend, Ed was known affectionately to those who loved him as “Big Ed.” Not because of his beer belly – he definitely had one – but because he was bigger than life. Ed grew up poor in Kansas, living in Great Bend, Lyons and Wellington, and ultimately graduated high school from Campus High in Haysville.

He married Becky Casmaer in 1971 and worked tirelessly in the oil field for his father, Dewey Gressel, until the age of 29 when he moved his family to Burrton and started Gressel Oilfield Service with the help of one of his closest friends, George Rayl. Later he took on a partner, Richard “Dick” Schremmer, and added another business to his portfolio, Bear Petroleum, and later Copeland Acid and Bear Tire.

In 1989 he divorced and married Cynthia Kaye Senter in 1990 – who he loved with all his heart for 32 years. He sold his businesses in 2010, swearing off the oil business, although if you had seen him wrench rods over the years you would have thought he savored the hard work.

Retirement meant something different for Ed than most. There was fishing with Scotty in Florida, and traveling to see his grandkids in California, and grilling steaks with family at the shop, but this all took second to his real passion – dirt track racing. He poured money, love, sweat and more hard work into building and sustaining a racing team that had, for well over 20 years, produced some of the best modified and late-model drivers in the Midwest, and boasted hundreds of races and wins and even a short TV series. A shrine of these wins still is proudly displayed in his little shop where he sat and barked orders from his work bench every day.

Ed was not a man of few words, as he liked to tell everyone what he thought – usually with great color. There was honesty in his words which oftentimes reflected an abandonment of grace or kindness, but nonetheless left you rarely questioning where you stood. He was the life of the party, reliably lucky and always made people laugh.  He danced and sang, smoked and drank, shot guns and ate rare steak. He loved his family, the State Fair, Notre Dame football, a good pitch game with his wife and kids, and watching old westerns. He swore off tattoos, tax collectors and lawyers – except for his daughter on occasion. He followed no one, but supported many, including the NRA as a lifetime member.

He left behind his devoted wife and best friend of 32 years, Cynthia “Cinde” (Senter) Gressel; and his three amazing children who he was most proud of: Stacia Gressel Boden, with her husband Mark and their three children: Roman, Ava and Ivorie; Adam Gressel and his wife Jessica and their three children Fiona, Wyatt and Annabelle; and Patrick Morgan and his wife Brenda and their two children Avery and Eli. He also left one sibling, Beulah Gressel, and a racing family that starts with Brandon and Dani Givens and Dal Eck but stretches across several years and states and dirt tracks. And we cannot forget the loyal and heartbroken stray dog named “Lady” that followed him everywhere.

He was predeceased by his father Dewey Gressel and mother Annabele Gressel.

Ed was a difficult person to love sometimes, but when he loved you, you knew it. Cheers to those who know it.

Viewing will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 6, at Smith Mortuary, 1415 N. Rock Road, Derby, KS 67037. Graveside service will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, at Valley Township Cemetery, 11009 E. Longview Road, Burrton, Kan., 67020. There will be a gathering and lots of hot beer at Ed’s racing shop following the service. All racing rigs are welcome.

In lieu of flowers, Ed would want you to live your life passionately, doing what you love, with those you love most.

You can read more about Ed’s passion for racing here:

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