My father was born in 1926 in Montreal, Canada and lived there for 11 years. His parents were Leon and Edna Zareski. He was the oldest of three siblings, the other two being: a sister, Audrey, and a brother, Norman.
What I would like to do now is tell you about my father. I want you to leave here with a better understanding and appreciation of his life and who he was. And I’m going to acquaint you with some aspects of his life that you may not be familiar with: the soldier, the geologist, and the sports fan … but first …
My father as a child: the history of ketchup.
The setting for the ketchup story is my father’s childhood home in 1931 in Montreal, Canada. He is 5 years old. Most of you knew my father as a modest man, wise of words, and diplomatic. [Smile..] But it was not always like this …
My father’s father (my grandfather) came home from work one night to find a bottle of homemade tomato sauce that the neighbor had prepared and brought. (Apparently, this wasn’t the first ketchup bottle.) My grandfather spoke a few chosen words, grabbed the ketchup bottle, opened the back door, and tossed the bottle into the cow pasture.
Several days later, the lady, who made the ketchup, came over and asked if they liked it. My father (the young man) cheerfully exclaimed:
“Oh! Daddy tossed the ketchup to the cows!”
Needless to say, that was the last bottle of ketchup the women made for the family. [Pause…]
My father was a soldier
Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the generation of unassuming men and women who went off to fight in World War II; the name of the book is “The Greatest Generation”. I am proud to say that my father was a participating member of this “greater generation.” [Pause…]
For years, indeed decades, after the war, he did not speak of his involvement. Only after the movie “Saving Private Ryan,” which was released 50 years after the war, did he begin to open up about some of his experiences.
Any plans he had for college when he was 18 were put on hold when he went to training camp. He said he nearly lost the ring finger of his right hand during close combat drills at the training ground when a shoelace from the boot of the soldier he was fighting with got caught in his ring. After that experience, she was never very fond of wearing rings. Her parents had given her that ring in 1944 as a high school graduation gift.
This is the ring and I am proud to wear it now.
He was in the Army’s 78th Infantry Division (known as the “Lightning” Division), 311st Regiment.
After completing training camp, he was literally sent to the head of the European Theater, where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the winter of 1944/45. The December rain and mud gave way to the snow and freezing cold of January 1945. Thick snow covered the hills and valleys, and hung from the fir trees in card-like beauty that belied the horror of war.
That winter was the coldest in Europe in 50 years. The infantry dug holes in the snow every night and did their best to stay warm and get some sleep. He told me how he would go without a bath for two or three weeks straight. She explained that her most prized item of clothing was her socks, the only item of clothing of which she wore two pairs. He washed a pair as often as possible, so his feet wouldn’t rot. You see, when you’re in the infantry and constantly on the move, your feet become your most important asset.
Throughout that winter, the 78th Infantry held the area it had taken from the Siegfried Line against violent German attacks. On the march to the river Rhine, 1978 faced a fierce and painful fight. From town to town, from trench to trench, from hedge to hedge, from cellar to cellar, from rubble to rubble, the Germans resisted the advance, but were methodically killed or captured.
Another famous battle, in which he saw action, was the Bridge of Remagen. On March 8, 1945, just 4 days after his 19th birthday, he was one of the first soldiers to embark on the nightmare crossing of the Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen. The Germans were firing at the bridge from the opposite slope. Try to imagine what it was like to cross this bridge on foot and under heavy fire. Bullets flew everywhere … flying metal ricocheted off the steel girders. He exclaimed that never in his life did he run so fast as to get to the other side. [Pause…]
He told me how later, when the bridge was secured, his battalion sat on the hillside for several hours and watched in awe as the Allied Forces literally pushed everything they had across the bridge: soldiers, vehicles, supplies, and artillery. He recently noted that it was one of the most remarkable places of his entire life.
This battle has been the subject of many books and movies due to its historical significance. The spectacular crossing of Remagen and the seizure of the first bridgehead of the River Rhine marked a major turning point in the war and ushered in the final phase of the Allied annihilation of Nazi Germany.
At 19 he was promoted to Sergeant. He was the only member of his original squad left standing; the rest were killed or wounded in the battle. [Pause…] He once told Sharon that he believed it was destined for him to live, because everyone around him was killed. [Pause…]
On April 17, after 128 days of continuous service at the front and heavy fighting, 128 days of continuous combat, the Lightning Division was withdrawn from the front line and put in reserve for a well-deserved rest. [Pause…]
In 2000, he and Sharon returned to Remagen for a 55-year reunion from this battle. When he and Sharon came to a corner of a particular building in the city, he pointed to a window across the street and told Sharon how, 55 years earlier, a German soldier had shot him from that window and shot him. immobilized. [Pause…]
My father was a geologist
After the war, in 1952, he received a bachelor’s degree in geology from Brooklyn College in New York. That same year he married my mother, Eleanor Zareski, and they moved to Tucson, Arizona. He was in the process of taking courses toward a master’s degree at the University of Arizona when I arrived. My parents also had two daughters: my sisters, Carol and Lisa. [Smile…]
My father was smart, hardworking, and had a successful professional career.
He began as a field geologist and surveyor in Utah and the West in the early 1950s, where he and a small group of surveyors set out to discover uranium deposits for the Atomic Energy Commission, a branch of the United States government. United.
Can anyone guess what the government was doing with this uranium?
It was used in the development of atomic bombs. [Pause…]
For several decades in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, a sample of uranium from one of his discoveries was displayed in Washington, DC, at the Museum of Natural History. [Pause…]
Over the years, he rose through the ranks of the Government to the GS15 level and when he retired, he was Deputy Director of the Office of Natural Gas and Director of the Oil and Gas Information System within the Department of Energy.
After retiring from government in the early 1980s, he joined a consulting firm, Zinder Associates, as a senior vice president.
In 1981, my father married Sharon. Words cannot express how grateful I am to Sharon for the unconditional love, dedication, and utter devotion that Sharon bestowed on my father, especially in his final months and weeks.
My father was a sports fan
He loved to play golf. He was skilled (and lucky) enough to score two holes in one in his life.
He was an avid Redskins fan; watched Redskins games almost every week since the mid-1960s – that’s over 40 years!
He was a huge baseball fan. In his youth, he played on the baseball field in New York, he was a pitcher. He threw a big slider and tried to teach me that tone when I was younger, but I could never master it like him.
It’s funny the stories you remember …
My sisters and I used to enjoy playing a unique game with my dad. It was titled “Dad takes off his belt and chases the three of us across the main floor of the house.” We would even start this game. We ran laughing and screaming for fear of being hit in the legs by his belt. Taking hits didn’t happen too often, but the idea of making the game exciting and scary. Sometimes he even made it scarier by turning off the lights.
It’s the year 1971, my first year at W&M. If it weren’t for my father, I wouldn’t have passed Freshman English, a writing course that was required for graduation. For those of you who are too young to remember, in 1971 there were no desktop computers, no Internet, no email, and no word processing capabilities. The typewriter was everything. After failing my first writing assignments, I mailed a draft of each new assignment to my father, who corrected and rewritten my assignments, as necessary, and returned them to me by mail. I, or should I say we, raised my final grade to a C.
My father was a man of few words and was not easily angered or upset. We used to play golf every Sunday at Front Royal. He would drive to the field early in the morning and I would drive us home in the early afternoon. One particular Sunday afternoon in the early 1970s, while I was driving home, my father took his usual nap. Well, I must have fell asleep at the wheel, because the next thing I knew the car was traversing side roads. [Hands] down the grassy median strip on Route 50 in Chantilly. We hit a traffic sign and threw it on the hood of the car. Grass and hay flew through the open windows and passed our heads. Onlookers watched in awe from the nearby fruit stand. Finally, I took control of the car and pulled over, then got back on the road. My father, who was now awake and clinging to the seat for his life. [Hands] he exclaimed in bewilderment, “What the hell are you doing !?” I replied, “I’m trying to get us back on the road!” He never said another word.
My father and I had a great relationship. I respected and admired him. He is the man who had the most influence on the man I became. He is the man who had the most influence on the man I became. He is my hero.
And our relationship extended beyond just father and son. We were close friends. We had similar interests and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Whether they spend long weekends together at Nags Head or Williamsburg, or dining at our favorite restaurants with Sharon and Sandi, or just quiet moments at home, we enjoy many quality moments together.
I love him and will miss him very much.
I thank you all for coming here to support Sharon, my sisters and their families, and my family, and to show respect to my loving father.