Native West Virginian, world-renowned lumberjack Arden Cogar Sr. passes away at 87

A young Arden Cogar Sr. brandishing an axe, the tool of choice in his given sport and occupation. Photo Submitted.

Arden E. Cogar Sr., 87 of Webster Springs, quietly passed away Sunday, November 21, 2021, at Webster County Memorial Hospital. Arden was a pillar of Webster County his entire life and traveled the world competing in the Woodchopping and the Lumberjack Sport. Born July 2, 1934, in Desert Fork to the late Hansford and Nora Pugh Cogar, he established himself as one of West Virginia’s most successful athletes of all-time, competing in the often-overlooked sport woodchopping. 

Cogar was a master at the lumberjack craft from a young age, winning nine titles at what would later come to be known as the Lumberjack World Championships at only 21 years old. He demonstrated his skills at the 1965 New York World’s Fair, quickly became the sport’s headlining figure, with regular spots on ABC’s Wide World of Sports. 

Cogar went on to be a trailblazing lumberjack, setting more than 50 world records, many after he turned 40. He still holds nine records. At the end of his career, Cogar had won 54 individual Woodchopping World Titles and had passed a love of the sport to his brothers, cousins, son, and his granddaughters. His son, Arden Cogar Jr., who is now a lawyer, followed in his father’s footsteps and competed for West Virginia University’s lumberjack team. He now holds 10 world records himself. Altogether, more than 20 Cogars have been competitive lumberjacks. Arden Sr., his son, Arden Jr., and nephew Paul collectively hold 21 of the 80 world records in the categories of underhand chopping and standing block chop.

The legend left his mark on the sport locally when he teamed with his brother, Jack to form the Webster County Woodchopping Festival in 1961. Since then, it has been held annually, becoming one of the most popular events of its kind in the world. In 2001, the Cogars introduced an international team competition to the festival, which has only increased its importance on the lumberjack season calendar.

He is best known for being named West Virginian of the Year in 1994 and for cutting down Christmas trees for Presidents John F. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. There was hardly a better representative of West Virginia in the public eye, than Cogar, who came from humble Appalachian roots to making appearances on the Johnny Carson Show.

Along with his parents he was also preceded in death by his life partner Carol Wilmoth Cogar; brothers Ralph and Jack Cogar; and sister Slyvania “Toots” Cogar. He is survived by his children Arden (Kristy) Cogar, Jr., Debby (Robert) McCoy, Jeanie (Randall) Moore, and Bill (Roseanna) Fisher; brothers Garce, John, and Lee Cogar; sister Shirley Cogar; granddaughters Kira and Carmen Cogar; companion Linda Tracey; and several nieces, nephews, and extended family and friends who will mourn his passing.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any memorial contributions be made to the Webster County Woodchopping Festival, PO Box 227, Webster Springs, WV 26288. Online condolences may be made to the family at www.doddreedfh.com.

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