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Robert F. Zielinski, Jr.

Company K-2

17 Oct 1939 - 10 Aug 2013

Place of Death: Louisville, KY

Interment: Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central, Radcliff, KY

It is with great sorrow and regret that we must notify you of the death of our Classmate, Bob Zielinski, on August 10, 2013 at Norton Suburban Hospital, Louisville, KY, after a courageous 16-month battle with cancer. 

Bob is survived by his wife, Betty, his mother Julia, daughter Julie Zielinski Gabis (Ed), son Rob (Amber), brothers Richard (Lana) and Andy, and 3 grandchildren (Ben, Cameron, and Nicholas).  Bob was preceded in death by his father, Frank, and sister, Nancy. 

Visitation will be held at 3-6 pm on Saturday, 17 August at Arch L. Heady at Westport Village, 7410 Westport Road, Louisville, KY  40222.  An Irish/Polish wake will follow from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Austin's, 4950 US Hwy 42, Louisville, KY  40222.

A graveside service will be held at noon on Monday, 19 August, at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central, 2501 North Dixie Boulevard, Radcliff, KY  40160. 

Condolences may be sent to Betty at 1303 Amberlin Lane, Louisville, KY  40245-8483

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donation of funds, time, or materials to one of Bob's favorite theatres: Little Colonel Players, P.O. Box 532, Pewee Valley, KY  40056-0532; Shelby County Community Theatre, 801 Main Street, Shelbyville, KY  40065; or Pandora Productions, P.O. Box 4185, Louisville, KY  40204-4185.

Well done, Bob.  Be thou at peace.


Class Memorial Pages\K-2 Bob Zielinski.pdf


ZIELINSKI, BOB, 73, of Louisville, passed away Saturday, August 10, 2013 at Norton Suburban Hospital. A true warrior, Bob finished his heroic 16-month battle with cancer peacefully, with his loving wife and children at his side.

Bob was a 1961 graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, a decorated Army Engineer Officer, and a Vietnam veteran. Bob was very actively involved in his community, serving many years as Louisville's Thomas Edison at public and local school events. He also loved community theater, starring in many local productions. Most recently, he was a successful director of 2 plays, "Something to Hide" at Little Colonel Players, and "Harvey" at Shelby County Community Theatre. Bob is survived by his loving wife of 51 years Betty; his mother, Julia; daughter, Julie Zielinski Gabis (Ed); son, Rob (Amber); brothers, Richard (Lana) and Andy; and three grandchildren, Ben, Cameron, Nicholas, Lara, Ellen, and Chris.

He was preceded in death by his father, Frank; and sister, Nancy. Visitation will be 3-6 p.m. Saturday, August 17, 2013 at Arch L. Heady Westport Village, 7410 Westport Road. There will be a graveside service at noon on Monday at Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central, Radcliff, KY.

In lieu of flowers, please donate funds, time or materials to one of Bob's favorite theaters: Little Colonel Players, Shelby County Community Theatre, or Pandora Productions.

"Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat." - "The Beauty of Things" by Gary Eldridge

Published in The Courier-Journal on August 13, 2013

Taps Memorial Article:

Robert F. Zielinski  1961

Cullum No. 23490-1961 | August 10, 2013 | Died in Louisville, KY
Interred in Kentucky Veterans Cemetery, Central Radcliff, KY

Robert Francis ‘Bob’ Zielinski’s life embodied exemplary strength of character, deep wisdom, and cheerful humor. In work, play, love, and laughter, he exuded that deep joy of the heart that convinced those around him that all would be well. A proud gift from Polish Milwaukee, son of Frank and Julia, brother of Richard and Nancy, Bob loved his heritage as well as sharing his family with everyone during Plebe Christmas and at Graduation. Of course, by then Bob had met the love of his life, Betty Kreps. They met on a blind date at West Point in April 1960, and 53 years later friends recognized it as the classic example of the perfect love affair! He and Betty were blessed with two children, Julie (Gabis) and Rob, and three grandchildren: Ben, Cameron, and Nicholas. Betty, Julie, Rob, and Rob’s wife, Amber, were at Bob’s bedside as he finished his heroic 16-month battle with cancer.

West Point proved to be a perfect niche for a guy with Bob’s qualities, attributes, and dedication to helping others. For example, he directly ensured the graduation of one cadet friend who struggled right up to graduation week, not only tutoring this friend for turnout exams, but regularly for various other courses. Bob gave up afternoons, evenings, and much well-earned sleep in order to help this friend, revealing his abundant qualities of selflessness and leadership, especially the “taking care of the troops” part.

Bob filled his time with more than work—boxing, soccer, handball, skeet shooting, German Club, Rocket Society, and Newman Forum—all the while keeping “Kappa Dos” in high spirits with his uproarious laugh and ready supply of after-dinner jokes. Humor fame came early for him too, being tabbed at the very first inspection as “the fool who dropped my rifle in front of the Commandant! Sir!” As a yearling he celebrated the privilege of wearing an official cadet bathrobe by procuring an Alfred E. Neumann tee shirt from Mad magazine and sewing the “What, Me Worry?” logo onto his B-robe.

After graduation and Engineer, Airborne, and Ranger training, Bob served his initial military assignment in Korea with the 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division. He completed his Master of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of Illinois in 1963-64 and the Engineer Career Course at Fort Belvoir, VA in 1964-65. By then the Vietnam War demanded the best the nation had to offer, and Bob deployed as an Engineer company commander in the 1st Infantry Division, “the Big Red One,” another “unaccompanied tour.” His decorations included the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, and the National Defense Service Medal. Bob taught military science to ROTC students at the University of Iowa until he was interrupted with yet one more “short tour,” this time with the 44th Engineer Group in Thailand, earning the Army Commendation Medal. Being separated from his family for three-and-a-half years out of the first six years of marriage and anticipating more of the same Vietnam turn-around cycle, Bob resigned from the Army in 1969 at the rank of major.

In his first civilian job, Bob became IBM’s regional sales representative for northeast Iowa, finding a niche as a member of the 100-percent club. Over time he also served in the manufacturing end of the business. His last job before retirement was at Unysis, marketing computers to large banks.

Retirement launched Bob into two of his favorite “jobs!” One was being a “standardized patient” at the University of Louisville Medical School. He graded prospective doctors and nurses on how well they performed giving physical exams and diagnoses. At Walden Theatre, Bob became Louisville’s “Thomas Edison,” delighting audiences of all ages over the next five years with his one-man presentation. Ironically, both of these “jobs” tapped into Bob’s love of theater, which Betty introduced to him in 1972 when she asked him to help build a set for a show she was in. Bob auditioned for the next show, was cast, and acted in community theater productions from then on. He eventually became a director and was slated to direct two more shows when he passed. His colleagues at Little Colonel Players dedicated their 57th season program to Bob with words of deep respect and appreciation for his great contributions.

Daughter Julie said her parents were a great inspiration and always there for her: “Daddy and Mom walked the walk…they knew they were partners forever and could count on each other…they instilled in me…if you always do your best, you can never look back and say ‘what if?’...that’s what has kept them together, always doing their best for the other person.” Son Rob said: “Dad’s excellent sense of humor marked everything he did and everything he was.”

Others spoke of Bob in all his activities as having “integrity, character and a deep sense of honor.”

Bob and Betty celebrated 51 years of marriage, and anyone who knew them praised them as the genuine article. They loved travel, fine wines, and playing with grandchildren. They showed up for funerals, volunteered their time, shared their talents, and taught that love, fun, and humor are the essentials of life.

Bob was rehearsing a show for the Kentucky State Fair the week he passed away. One of his lines was: “Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat” (G. Eldredge).

Well done, Bob; Be Thou at Peace.

— Jack Dewar ’61 and the Zielinski Family: “Team Z”