Wesley Foster Edwards passed peacefully on Sunday, July 19th after a yearlong battle with renal cancer at the age of 70.
He is survived by his wife, Tricia Walsh Edwards of Troy, Ohio; his daughter, Kathryn Jo Edwards of Lakewood, Ohio; his son and daughter-in-law, Frederick Walsh Edwards and Hannah Lynn (Pacholski) Edwards of Lakewood, Ohio; his sister, Lottie Jean (Edwards) Elam of Pasadena, California; and his nephews, Joe Edward Elam and Richard David Elam of Fort Walton, Florida. His surviving cousins are Kandy (Ryan) Johnson and her husband Steve of Fayetteville, Arkansas; his cousin Ayn Robertson and her husband Carl of Munford, Tennessee; Patricia Gray of Calgary, Alberta; and Mary Ella Ryan of Fayetteville, Arkansas.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Mary Constance (Dimitriades) Edwards-Brandt; his father, Joseph Foster Edwards; his sister, Constance Jo Marguerite (Edwards) Sweeny; and his beloved cousin Rodney Ryan.
Wes was born in Dallas, Texas on September 25th, 1949. His parents met in Shanghai during World War II, where his mother was a typist at the American Embassy; she emigrated to China as a child when her family fled the Soviet Union during the Bolshevik Revolution. His father was a Warrant Officer in the United States Marine Corps stationed there. Both were taken to prisoner of war camps in the Philippines for three years. After being liberated from the camps they reunited and eventually settled in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Joseph died when Wes was sixteen. Two years later, he graduated from North Little Rock High School and enrolled in the University of Arkansas. He dropped out after one year—almost achieving the proud equivalent GPA of Belushi’s character in Animal House; he was unsure what he wanted to pursue as a career and decided to enlist in the Navy, even though he was not required to serve as a sole surviving son. Thanks to innate intelligence and drive, Wes was assigned to be a nuclear reactor instructor during the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged and returned to the University of Arkansas, where he found his calling as an actor, receiving his B.A. in Theatre in 1975. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and remained passionate about the Razorbacks, “calling the hogs” throughout his life.
While an undergraduate, backstage during a dress rehearsal of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with the young woman playing Philia the Virgin (all while wearing matching togas and blonde wigs), he asked out his future wife of 43 years, Tricia. They married on January 3rd, 1976 and moved to Los Angeles for Wes to pursue his MFA in Acting from UCLA while Tricia began her career as a music educator. Lauded as “Best Actor” during his time at both the University of Arkansas and UCLA, he portrayed a range of leading roles in works by a diverse group of playwrights—from Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde and Edward Albee—including new works by his contemporaries. He went on to earn his Screen Actors Guild membership through various roles in film and television.
In 1979 Wes and Tricia moved to Columbia, Missouri for Wes to pursue his JD at the University of Missouri. When interviewed by the dean, Wes was asked why he wanted to be an attorney. After a thoughtful pause Wes replied, “I guess it’s just a phase I’m going through.” The dean, after breaking out into laughter, admitted Wes on the spot. He completed his JD and passed the California bar exam in 1982. Wes and Tricia returned to Los Angeles where Wes joined the firm of Irwin, Hale, & Jacobs. His natural charisma and storytelling ability made him an engaging and convincing litigator.
Wes and Tricia welcomed their daughter Kathryn in 1987 and their son Frederick in 1989. Kathryn developed her father’s love for theatre and politics while Fred developed his love for all things golf and Razorbacks. He was a wonderful, supportive father who encouraged both of their ever-changing interests as children: including hockey, soccer, acting, and playing the drums. He would tell the two of them—and anyone he came across—how proud of them he was in their flourishing adult careers. This also applied to making sure everyone knew how happy he was to welcome his wonderful daughter-in-law, Hannah, to the family.
In 1992 Wes traveled the United States as a surrogate speaker for President Clinton’s first presidential campaign. He immediately connected with another “Arkansas Traveler” on the bus, Joe Purvis, who ended up becoming his dearest lifelong friend. They didn’t realize until after forming their initial bond that they both grew up with Bill in different cities—Wes in Hot Springs and Joe in Hope.
The following year, the Edwards family moved to Troy, Ohio, where Wes joined Crown Equipment Corporation as Associate General Counsel; he worked for 26 years until his retirement.
With a passion for music and singing rock ‘n roll, he joined the Ohio Mystery Band shortly after their move and forged lifelong bonds with a unique, talented group of men. His loyal Siberian Husky Howard will continue to sing their favorite duet, Delbert McClinton’s “Givin’ it Up for Your Love,” with his family.
To honor his passion for the performing arts, the “Wesley Edwards Memorial Endowed Theatre Award” has been established at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville to provide support for promising undergraduate theatre majors. Contributions can be made here.
A memorial celebration will be held in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2021.