James A “GYM” Zacha
Dad was born on March 25, 1934 in the front bedroom of the family farm outside Michigan North Dakota. He was the first child and only son of John and Nellie Zacha. He was born during the great depression and these difficult days stayed with James his entire life – with a strong work ethic and a focus on always taking care of his family.
Dad was an incredible athlete – playing football, basketball and baseball in High school and all conference and all state. He went on to play basketball at Valley City State until he was drafted into the army. Dad was on the All Army winning team for basketball in 1954. After the army, he returned to North Dakota Ag College where he met our Mom, Carol Jean who was his sister Peg’s roommate at nursing school. They were married in 1956 and their family was born – 4 kids in 5 years. While Mom was having the kids, dad finished his teaching degree and we began travelling to small schools all over North Dakota where dad taught, was superintendent, and guidance counselor, and coached…all while living in a 50 foot trailer that we brought with us in each move…what an adventure Mom said!
In 1962, Kristi was diagnosed with Leukemia and in 1963 we moved to Minneapolis to have her treated by the University of Minnesota cancer doctors…Dad worked as a Jr High Counselor in Osseo Minnesota. At the top paygrade of $13K a year, when Horace Mann insurance recruited Dad, he joined and began a very successful career as an Insurance sales leader. Thankfully, Kristi was miraculously cured in 1966 – certainly helped with Dad’s monthly plasma transfers to Kristi over the last 3 years. Dad and Kristi were inseparable.
After Dad joined Horace Mann, he was the “team builder” and we moved to Madison WI, Washington DC, Coral Springs FL, Valdosta GA, back to Minneapolis and then Madison again, Minneapolis and then Charlotte NC before settling in New Smyrna Beach Florida. As kids, moving every other year and one time twice in 13 months, it was not easy; but each of us learned to find good friends quickly and we have good memories of each place we lived together as family. In every move, Dad and Mom found a church and Dad was always very involved – often raising money for the church building fund. We also always had a Basketball hoop on the garage!
Dad was a golfer for years – with Mom – and he loved to watch high school sports (actually all sports) and luckily Kristi moved to NSB, worked with Dad, got married, and had her family here. Her two boys spent an incredible amount of time with their grandparents and Christian and Noah kept Mom and Dad young and healthy – and for that we are grateful.
Chuck is the oldest, 64, was married to Annie until she passed in 2008, and he and his son, John, live in Grand Forks North Dakota. Chuck and Dad share eyebrows and a funny sense of humor. Chuck enjoyed seeing Dad and Mom on the cousin’s farm in Michigan, ND when Mom and Dad spent summers there for years. Chuck and his friend Lois enjoy farm life and Chuck has become an amazing cook over time!
Karol Kay was the first daughter and she passed away in 2009. She was 59 and was a creative soul. We know that Kay and Dad are in heaven together – probably eating pie – a lot of pie.
Shawn is 61 and was married for 37 years and raised 3 kids, Leilah, Cameron and Zachary. Our best memories are beach days where PAPA spent a great amount of time setting up the blue tent for shade and we played all day long…a wonderful memory! Shawn is engaged to Mark Kirkpatrick and thankfully, Mark met Dad last summer and Dad told Shawn, “he is a keeper”
Kristi is 59 and was married to her Mark and together they raised Christian and Noah until Mark passed away in 2009. Kristi has been the #1 support of Mom and Dad during Dad’s illness and has been a life saver for our family. We are blessed that Kristi and her sons are still nearby to continue to support and care for Mom during this difficult time. Thank you.
Our Dad was silly and strong – a bear of a man until his death. He loved our Mom Carol Jean deeply and loyally and we are blessed to have been raised by our parents who truly loved each other – even in the really difficult days when we were all teenagers and later as we lost or siblings and spouses…and we all know that Mom – his Carol Jean – has always been Dad’s biggest fan. Mom is an amazingly strong woman who raised strong kids and kept us all organized during the many moves, changes, and complications of life.
RIP DAD, we loved you and we miss you, but we know you are young and healthy and proving to everyone in heaven that in the game of basketball – it’s all in the wrist!
A memorial service will be held 11:00 am ,Wednesday June 23, 2021, at Trinity Lutheran Church 485Turnbull Bay Road New Smyrna Beach, Fl 32168
485 Turnbull Bay Road New Smyrna Beach Florida 32168