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Ed Malzahn widely credited as the father of the modern trencher founded Ditch Witch and remained active with the company and the local community until his death
Ed Malzahn, widely credited as the father of the modern trencher, founded Ditch Witch and remained active with the company and the local community until his death.

Legendary Ditch Witch Founder and Trencher Inventor Ed Malzahn Dies

Ed Malzahn, legendary founder of Ditch Witch and widely credited as the inventor of the modern trencher, has died at the age of 94. Malzahn launched the first service line trencher, the Ditch Witch model DWP in 1949 from a small machine shop in Oklahoma.

The small machine shop grew to become Ditch Witch, a Charles Machine Works company, which now employs more than 1,500 workers and has more than 175 dealerships and branches serving 195 countries. Ditch Witch has produced and sold more than half of the world’s trenching machines, the company said.

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

Malzahn is widely recognized as an industry leader and innovator. He was inducted in the Oklahoma Inventors Hall of Fame, The American Rental Association 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’s Patent, Trademark and Copyright Section.

Malzahn was born and bred in Oklahoma and was very involved as a civic leader and philanthropist in his hometown of Perry, Okla., and throughout the state, including volunteer service and financial contributions to numerous organizations and boards at the local, state and national level.

Very much a family man, Charles Machine Works has remained a family business since its creation, even after global success. Malzahn’s granddaughter, Tiffany Sewell-Howard represents the fifth generation of the Malzahn family and now serves as the executive chair of CMW.

Malzahn is survived by his three children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. To send condolences or share memories, please visit

Memorial and funeral arrangements are scheduled as follows:

Memorial: Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., Ditch Witch Training Center, 1947 West Fir Ave., Perry, OK 73077.

Funeral Services, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2:00 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 1922 N. 15 St., Perry, OK 73077.

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