Ed Malzahn, Ditch Witch Founder and Industry Icon, Dies at 94

Ed Malzahn, Ditch Witch Founder and Industry Icon, Dies at 94

tiffany sewer howard and ed malzahn

Tiffany Sewell-Howard, executive chair of Charles Machine Works, and company founder and chair emeritus Ed Malzahn. Photo is from the August 2007 Trenchless Technology cover story.

The Ditch Witch family announced Dec. 15 that the company’s founder and construction industry pioneer, Ed Malzahn died Dec. 11, at the age of 94.

Malzahn changed the way the world’s utility infrastructure is installed and maintained when he launched the first service line trencher, the Ditch Witch model DWP in 1949 from a small machine shop in Oklahoma. That small shop grew to become Ditch Witch, a Charles Machine Works company, which today employs more than 1,500 workers, and has more than 175 dealerships and branches serving 195 countries. The company has produced and sold more than half of the world’s trenching machines.

“Ed was the inspirational leader of the Ditch Witch and the Charles Machine Works family for over 65 years,” said Rick Johnson, CEO for Charles Machine Works. “He possessed a sharp mind, strong rural work ethic and generous spirit – all of which he used to better those around him.”

Recognition of Malzahn’s accomplishments as an industry leader and innovator included his induction into the Oklahoma Inventors Hall of Fame, American Rental Association Hall of Fame, Construction Equipment Hall of Fame and North American Society for Trenchless Technology Hall of Fame. He also was named Inventor of the Year by the Oklahoma Bar Association: Patent, Trademark and Copyright Section.

RELATED: Read the cover story from the August 2007 issue of Trenchless Technology magazine.

The needs of the community and its residents were always a priority to Malzahn, who held deep Oklahoma roots. His efforts as a civic leader and philanthropist included volunteer service and financial contributions to numerous organizations and boards at the local, state and national level.

RELATED: All the Right Moves: Charles Machine Works Expands Its Trenchless Market

As a family man, Malzahn’s family life extended to his work life. Charles Machine Works has remained a family business since its creation, even after global success. Malzahn’s granddaughter Tiffany Sewell-Howard, who represents the fifth-generation of the Malzahn family, now serves as the executive chair of Charles Machine Works.

Malzahn is survived by his three children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Charles Machine Works created the edmalzahn.com website for those who wish to send condolences or share memories. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Perry Memorial Hospital Foundation, c/o Brown-Dugger Funeral Home at 1010 N. 7th St., Perry, Okla., 73077.

A memorial service for Malzahn is set for 6-8 p.m. Dec. 18, at the Ditch Witch Training Center, 1947 W. Fir Ave., Perry, Okla. The funeral service is at 2 p.m. Dec. 19 at First Presbyterian Church, 1922 N. 15th St., Perry, Okla.
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