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Posted 01.26.17

MotorCities remembers Ed BagaleThe MotorCties National Heritage Area would like to pay tribute to Mr. Ed Bagale who passed away on Jan. 18.

Ed was an instrumental figure in founding the MotorCities National Heritage Area, and was a dedicated member of MotorCities’ Board of Directors for many years. Due to Ed's tireless leadership effort and commitment to broad-based community support, and with Congressman John Dingell at the helm, legislation was passed establishing the MotorCities National Heritage Area.

For more than 20 years, Ed had championed MotorCities projects while establishing the Rouge Gateway Program. His many efforts have touched every level of involvement by our partner organizations and corporate leaders.

Ed contributed his passion for partnerships and preservation to MotorCities’ until he retired in 2013.

MotorCities’ Programs Director Brian Yopp had this to say about Ed:

“The thing that I will always appreciate about Ed is his outlook on the value of relationship building. His perspective was that he was no genius and did not have a magic formula. What he had was a unique ability to bring people together. Throughout our lives and experiences we meet and touch so many people. You will never know what opportunity those people offer until you start the conversation. Ed would often tell me that “our job is to get people in a room and get them talking and then to keep then talking until something great happens.”

“The driving force behind the work of MotorCities National Heritage Area is ultimately about bringing people together. Regardless of race, religion, economics or geography, we all share a piece of the heritage of the automotive industry and its impact. Ed taught me that, in most cases, the auto and labor heritage story that connects us is stronger than anything that keeps us apart. That philosophy has helped to launch many great projects and has planted the seeds for new relationships that have yet to blossom. Thanks Ed!”

Nancy Darga, former executive director for MotorCities and current boad member, recalled Ed's unique ability to “keep pushing.”

“Ed Bagale would tell me that he was the 'Impresario of Improbable Projects' and that getting legislation passed for the creation of the Motor Cities National Heritage Area looked very 'improbable.'” When Don Werling, (former) director of the Fair-Lane Estate, and I told him we wanted to establish a MotorCities National Heritage Area he told us we were out of our minds. When Congressman Dingell called him and told him we need to get this heritage area established, he told Mr. Dingell he would make it happen and he did.

“That was no easy task. It took nine years and a lot of negotiating and maneuvering. Ed was always pushing. He had the ability to see what it would take to make people come together on a project and who or what was in the way. You never wanted to be a person he felt was getting in the way. There would be Ed Bagale tire tracks down your back. Even if Ed disagreed with you he was also very generous extending a helping hand on another project.”

Throughout his years working with MotorCities, Ed made quite an impression on all walks of life including the National Park Service. Marty Sterkel, Associate Regional Director-Partnerships, for the Midwest Region-NPS, recalled Ed’s influence on his own career:

“I learned more from Ed Bagale on how to negotiate and make a deal during our time working together for MotorCities than in the rest of my 45 years of professional experience working in the conservation and philanthropy world. I also learned how to be a good friend. Thank you Ed.”

Ed's influence also extended into the corporate automotive world. Bud Liebler, former director of communications for Chrysler, paid this tribute to Ed at the time of his retirement from MotorCities.

“Ed has been a critical part of MotorCities National Heritage Area, a cornerstone of the organization from the very beginning. He has been its fiercest advocate and harshest critic when necessary. He has fought over governing principles (and governing leaders), has debated with NPS and Washington on why they must continue and increase their support of MotorCities, and has practically prostrated himself whenever and wherever necessary to keep the funding flowing. I know. I've seen him do it.”