Merlin (Bud) Le Roy Thorson

07/16/1929 - 01/13/2023


Obituary For Merlin (Bud) Le Roy Thorson

Merlin (Bud) L. Thorson passed away January 13, 2023 in Puyallup, WA surrounded by his family. He is preceded in death by his wife, Joan A. Thorson. Merlin (Bud) L. Thorson was born in Centerville, South Dakota, on July 16th, 1929, and moved to Seattle when he was seven. He served in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic stationed in Germany, participating in the Berlin Airlift. He drove a truck in Seattle delivering to stores and restaurants, worked as a meat cutter for his brother’s grocery store in Angle Lake, WA, and was the first paid Fire Chief for Federal Way Fire Department which is now known as South King Fire & Rescue. He also enjoyed coaching baseball for his children’s teams. Bud married the love of his life, Joan A. Koppenheffer, in 1954, and in 1955, he joined the fire department as a volunteer. Working his way up, he was promoted to volunteer Chief in 1962 and became a career Fire Chief in 1966. During his tenure, Chief Thorson was instrumental in merging Fire District 39 with 22 in 1967, District 32 in 1972, and District 30 in 1980.

During his tenure as a Fire Chief, he participated in implementing the South King County Medic One program that included working with the King County EMS to train firefighters to become defibrillator technicians; his department was the first in Washington State to reach this achievement. Chief Thorson also partnered with the U.S. Secret Service as the Emergency Services Coordinator for a U.S. Presidential visit to the area. He retired from the fire service in January 1990. Bud served in the community’s top leadership roles, including President of Volunteer Firefighter Association, President of the Chamber of Commerce, President of Rotary, President of the King County Chief’s Association, President of the Washington State Chief’s Association, and Chairman of Washington State Training Officers. During his tenure, Chief Thorson played a vital role in the design, development, funding, and construction of the Washington State Fire Training Center in North Bend.

Following Bud’s retirement from the fire department, he enjoyed salmon fishing, serving as the “bait boy” on the Shenandoah, building furniture, and making charcuterie boards with resin. He leaves behind four children (Tom/Billie, Jerry/Gina, Dave, and Linda), eight Grandchildren (Jason, Stephanie/Dan, Amanda/Brian, Kris/Carleigh, Shaun, Matt/Jenn, Michael/Brittany, and Zack), and six Great Grandchildren (Ocean, Scout, Erie, Nathan, Kai, and Eloise).

Services will be held at the Federal Way Community Center on February 4, 2023 at 1:00 pm. The family asks in lieu of flowers, please consider donations to South King Fire & Rescue Aid Fund or the South King Fire & Rescue Firefighters Foundation.


4 Feb

Funeral Service

01:00 PM

Federal Way Community Center 876 S 333rd St Federal Way, WA 98003 Get Directions »
by Obituary Assistant

Photos & Video

Add New Photos & Video


Add a Candle

Click a candle below to add a candle to your message.