Kansas Chief Collapses, Dies After Fire

MARQUETTE, Kan.-- Monday was Stan Engdahl's kind of day.

He spent the morning at the Kansas Motorcycle Museum on Main Street, talking to anyone who happened through the door.

Then, as McPherson County District No. 2 fire chief, he answered a fire call at 3:53 p.m.

But just as the small stove fire was under control, the 78-year-old stepped out of the house and collapsed. He died of a massive heart attack before the emergency medical crew could get him to the hospital in Lindsborg.

"He had a delightful day," said Marquette public librarian Donna Elvin, "doing what he loved."

The town's library sits across from the motorcycle museum; Engdahl and Elvin would see each other every day.

On a corner of Main Street in this town of fewer than 600 residents, the museum is the big draw, attracting tourists from all over the country and world, Elvin said.

The museum was once home to Engdahl's radio and TV repair business. On weekends, he would race motorcycles.

The hobby grew into an obsession over 47 years, and "Stan the Man" became a five-time national racing champion.

"He was a motorcycle nut," said a cousin, Linda Crosby. She recalled that as a young child she was afraid to play outside her home for fear he'd come flying past on his motorcycle.

Hundreds of Engdahl's trophies fill the museum, which opened in 2003. He and his Marquette High School sweetheart, LaVona Loomis, staffed the nonprofit museum seven days a week.

"She was going to open the museum today," said Rochelle Hamilton, a board member of the Kansas Motorcycle Museum. But she had to make funeral plans.

"He had it all," Hamilton said. "He was in his element. How many of us get to do what we love all our lives? He did."

Hamilton moved to town two years ago from Kansas City and knew nothing about motorcycles, but she became fascinated by Engdahl, whom she described as a "legend."

His energy rubbed off on her.

"We'll miss his personality, smile, twinkle in his eye, and his stories," she said. "We never heard all his stories."

Like the time he won a motorcycle race with a broken leg. He just tied it to the bike for safekeeping.

A passionate man, he also loved fighting fires. Ask anyone on Main Street and they'll tell you Engdahl had been the town's fire chief "forever."

Volunteer firefighter Max Hauck narrowed it down to more than 20 years.

"I rode with him on fire runs all the time," Hauck said, standing by the chief's empty cubicle at the fire station, now void of his bunker gear.

"This was his pride and joy," Hauck said, patting the door of a large, tank-like firetruck. "He fixed it up. We drove to a lot of fires in this."

Hauck thought the chief, who had been walking with a cane, had been feeling good.

"He came out of the house, took a step, and collapsed. We did CPR. We got him to breathe again, but he didn't make it to Lindsborg."

Funeral Information

Visitation for Fire Chief Engdahl will be held Thursday, Nov. 15 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Elim Lutheran Church, on Lincoln Street in Marquette, Kan.

Funeral services will be held Friday, Nov. 16 at 10 a.m. at the church.

Republished with permission of The Hutchinson News.