NAUGATUCK — Donald J. Zehnder Jr. was known as “Zeke” to everyone who knew him. He proudly attended the University of Notre Dame and was the epitome of the spirit of the “fighting Irish” in everything he did in life. One did not have to be around him long to understand his pride in the University of Notre Dame and everything that it stood for.
Notre Dame football has a sign that says “play like a champion” on the wall of the football locker room as the players enter the field. Zeke adopted this creed and “lived” like a champion in his personal and professional life every day. Everyone who knew him came to understand this.
Zeke followed his father’s footsteps at Notre Dame and after graduation from Catholic University Law School began to practice law in Naugatuck. It was a general practice where the client was the end and not a means to an end. Zeke would routinely under charge clients if he felt they needed his help. His intellect and compassion served all of his clients for the better.
Zeke loved Naugatuck, the United States of America and his family dearly; God, country and family. He was active in local and state Republican politics. His involvement was unique in that it was never self-serving, but rather was motivated by his desire to serve.
Zeke was athletic throughout his life. After receiving awards in high school football, he continued his endeavors at Notre Dame on the rugby team. He regaled all who would listen as to his “best hit” award received at Notre Dame for his rugby play. While there he served as captain of the rugby team in his senior year.
Zeke had a natural curiosity about life and loved traveling. His travel included trips to Ireland, Iceland, Thailand, England, Germany and a very special trip visiting the lands and shrine of St. Francis of Assisi with his dad in Italy. Zeke had a wonder and appreciation for the natural world. He recently planted hydrangeas, which he brought back from Cape Cod, and they have just bloomed, which reminds us of the simple joys he loved. A memorable day included a walk or a swim at the beach. In addition to what he accomplished in his personal and professional life, the true measure of those who knew Zeke was in his personal relationships. Everyone who had the privilege to know him has special memories to treasure. He loved people, and people loved him.
Zeke lived life to the fullest and had eclectic interests. He loved the New York Giants football team and the Boston Red Sox baseball team. He loved James Taylor at Tanglewood and playing golf with friends. He also loved history and had an encyclopedic knowledge of world events. Anyone who was unlucky enough to debate him in world history soon learned of their mistake.
Throughout his life Zeke touched many lives and will always be cherished. The world is a lesser place with his departure, but heaven has received a new angel who will shine in our hearts forever. “Go Irish.”
He is survived by his father attorney Donald J. Zehnder Sr. of Naugatuck; his sister Shawn and her husband Jeffrey Larsen; nephew Connor Larsen of Boston; his sister Gail and her husband Daniel Laterza of Salem, Mass., and his brother Terence Zehnder and his wife Denise and his nephew and godson Kenneth A. Zehnder, also of Naugatuck. Donald will be remembered by a wide circle of friends, aunts, uncles and cousins. He is predeceased by his beloved mother Mary (Graney) Zehnder and nephew Ryan Larsen.
We will remember and celebrate Don’s spirit at a 9:30 a.m. mass of Christian burial on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 318 Church St., Naugatuck. Everyone is asked to meet directly at church prior to mass. Burial will follow in St. James Cemetery, with a reception to follow. There are no calling hours. The Alderson Funeral Home of Naugatuck, 201 Meadow St., is in charge of arrangements.
Please feel our gratitude for all the love and support that surrounded Don and in his memory, in lieu of flowers contribute to the Naugatuck High School Alumni Association Zehnder Family Scholarship, c/o Dorothy Knowles, P.O. Box 747, Naugatuck, CT 06770-0747 or Notre Dame University, Development Donor Services, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556-4638. Or any charity of your choice.
For further information, to light a memorial candle or to send an on line condolence, visit www.aldersonfuneralhomes.com.