Franklin David Zanetell, Sr. of Gunnison, Colo., died of congestive heart failure, peacefully at home on March 21. He was born in Aguilar, Colo., on Nov. 5, 1933, a son of Emma and Joseph Zanetell.

Frank was drafted during the Korean War and sent to Europe where U.S. occupational troops were maintained after World War II. In Germany, he was captain, not in rank, but of the U.S. Commanding General’s winning football team in the European Theatre Football League.

After serving in the U.S. Army, Frank came to Gunnison in 1956 to attend Western State College (now Western Colorado University) where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business. He was selected there as the Graduate Assistant in Accounting, under Dr. Mitchell Mateik. He also captained Western’s football team, under Coach Willard “Pete” Pederson, and was named to the NCAA All-American Team (Div. II) as a Guard and Linebacker, also having been named to several of Westerns “all-time” teams through the years. He walked on and made the inaugural Denver Broncos team but was injured and released only days before the team’s initial game.

Frank returned to Gunnison and never left: he married, raised a family, enjoyed the out-of-doors, and was successful in business and community affairs. He was his own man: self-employed, first as a local accountant and later focusing on his own financial affairs, principally as owner of the Four Seasons Apartment complex in Gunnison.

Frank is survived by his wife of 56 years, Marlene Wright Zanetell and their children: Franklin David Zanetell, Jr. (Beverly) of Evergreen, and children Morgan, and Brock; Brooke Ann Zanetell (Philip) of Taos, N.M., and daughter Lucia; elder son Mark Wright Zanetell died in 1979. Also surviving Frank are siblings Evelyn Andrews of Boulder, Robert Zanetell (Joanne) of Denver and Joseph Allen Zanetell (Myrna) of Pueblo. Many nieces and nephews, whom he held dear, also survive him. Siblings who preceded him in death were Violet, Leonard, Richard, Velma and Annabel.

Frank Zanetell was a handsome man with a fine mind and a good heart.

Frank was a member of the St. Peter’s Catholic Church parish in Gunnison. With family in attendance, Father Andrés Ayala-Santiago celebrated Frank’s funeral mass and committal at the Gunnison County Cemetery. Honorary pallbearers were Kim Barz, Don Coleman, Joey Cristelli, Roger Jaramillo, Jim Miles, Jerry Piquette, Jamie Price and Frank Willis. It is the hope of the family to host a memorial celebration later this year in Gunnison.

In remembrance, donations are appreciated for the Frank Zanetell Scholarship Fund for Football Athletes at Western Colorado University Foundation, 909 E. Escalante Drive, Gunnison, CO 81230; 970.641.2237.

Contact the Frank Zanetell family at: P.O. Box 418, Gunnison, CO 81230.

After graduating from Aguilar High School and a year at Trinidad Junior College, Frank was drafted, due to the Korean War. He was fortunate to be shipped, rather, to Europe and stationed near Berlin, Germany, at the headquarters of the Western Area Command Division under Commanding General William Reiber. Though trained as a Medical Aidman, he was soon placed on Temporary duty (TDY) and relieved of the routine G.I. schedule when he tried out and was selected for the Division Command Football Team “The Rhinos,” an elite group comprised mainly of college standouts and pro players who had also been drafted. They chose “The Kid” from Colorado as their Captain and, as such, Frank said he often had morning coffee with General Reiber to confer on team matters. The team, accompanied by the General and his wife, were flown to European cities, such as Paris and Amsterdam to take on other Divisional Command Football teams of the U.S. Army occupational forces. When his team won the European Theatre Football League championship, Frank was selected as MVP. General Reiber mentored Frank and as Frank’s two-year obligation was nearing an end, Reiber suggested he go to West Point, with the General’s help. Frank declined the offer of help, as his parents were getting older and he wanted to return to Colorado. And so, he did. And on to Western with five dollars in his pocket, he came.

At one time, Frank kept books and did taxes for local businesses, such as Miller Clothiers, The Oasis, the Columbine, Frank & Gal’s in Crested Butte, The Robbins Ranch and Auction Co. He clerked the many ranch auctions conducted in the 1960s by Maggie and Ed Robbins, pertinent to the properties west of Gunnison that were to be inundated by Blue Mesa Reservoir. Later, Frank focused on his own financial affairs, and actively managed his Four Seasons Apartment complex in Gunnison, often mentoring his tenants.

Over the years Frank took an interest in the well being of the County and the community, often discussing issues with friends over coffee: “Boys,” he’d say, “We’ve got serious problems.” If it was important enough, Frank showed up. Once, he brought his knowledge of school finance law and property taxes to a public meeting where he was instrumental in dissuading the School Board from a proposal to break the school district into two County districts: the north to have the majority of the tax base, and the south to have the majority of the students.

He and his close friend Tracey Borah rallied alumni in the 1980s in the city-led effort to achieve legislation changing Western’s governance from the then Consortium of State colleges to make Western part of the Colorado University (CU) system, as the University of Colorado-Western at Gunnison. The measure passed the State Senate but failed in the House. In that effort, Frank met personally with the then CU President, Gordon Gee, who favored the proposal, on a horseback ride in the Gunnison Country. Today, the linkage he and so many others then thought wise, is now beginning to be forged by Western. Frank was pleased with that.

Frank long drove a classic ‘59 green Willis Jeep, a gift from his father-in-law, George Wright. He carried his young family in it on Sunday outings — cookouts, fishing, hiking — throughout the Gunnison National Forest. His sister Ann and her family, as well as close family friends Red and Susie Romack, often joined in these outings.

Frank enjoyed elk hunting; first, packing in with the Ed Casebolt family in the West Elk Wilderness, and later Frank hunted with his sons and grandchildren above the Lost Canyon area. He took great pride and joy in building a hand-hewn log cabin in that area in partnership with son David. “A work of art,” his sister Evelyn called it. And so the cabin was and remains-surely to be long enjoyed by family. Frank bagged his last elk at age 82, still exceptionally robust, just prior to the ill-advised open-heart surgery in January of 2016 which, in his case, was not beneficial, leaving him challenged with congestive heart failure for the remainder of his days. He did not “go gently into that good night.” To the end Frank thought he would beat it.

Frank had a gentle smile and a kind way. Over the years he enjoyed the friendship of many in the community. Some passed on before him but remained in his heart. In addition to those already noted, he felt a great kinship with County Sheriff George Cope, for whom he worked a year as Undersheriff; and Dr. Ron Meyer, whom he first met as a young man, walking around Gunnison with undiagnosed double pneumonia. Ron saved him. Good neighbors, side by side on the Gunnison River, were the Reitingers. As a miner’s son, he had an affinity for the old-timers in Crested Butte, who befriended him, such as the Somraks, Sporciches, Stajduhars, and Frank and Gail Staricka — whose bar he loved to polka at. The late Father John Kiernan was dear to him. Among the old pals held in his heart were Charles Alexander, Bill Rhodes, Tom Muhic, Joe “Peanuts” Berta, the Giambalvo’s, the Bardessonas, the Dosens of Aguilar, and his childhood pal there, Sugar Evancich. Over 60 friends joined Frank to celebrate his 85th birthday, with lunch and cake at the Elks Club in Gunnison. It meant a great deal to him.

Above all Frank described himself this way: “I am a family man.” He believed in education and supported David and Brooke in their pursuit of higher education — between them they have six college degrees. His pride in them knew no bounds. Each of them is doing good work and is accomplished and respected in their field of expertise. And they are dedicated, like their dad, to family. Recently, Frank said “I’ve had a good life,” as he reflected on his children and beautiful grandchildren.

Because Frank was marked by his understanding of the sacrifice and hardship his parents, Joe and Emma, had endured as a young couple who survived Colorado’s Southern Coal Field Mine Wars of the early 20th century, we should reflect on that here, just as Frank often did. Frank’s father went into the coal mines near Trinidad around age 12, working 12-hour shifts, six days a week, in order to support his widowed mother and his siblings. After Joe and Emma married, he was an organizer for the United Mine Workers, seeking better conditions for the miners. They met violence when the militia attacked striking mine families and they suffered great personal loss. Somehow, Joe and Emma endured and prevailed. Their personal experience in that pivotal time in Colorado’s history was recounted in a lengthy feature article published in the Rocky Mountain News, of March 3, 1985, based on the research of Dr. Eric Margolis, which is archived at CU-Boulder. Also, the Colorado History Museum featured the Zanetell story, as emblematic, in its noted exhibit on that era, and the Museum retains in its permanent collection their furnishings from the tent colony of striking miners at Forbes Mine, near Trinidad, Colo.

Though the strikes were crushed by the powerful mine owners, Joseph and Emma came through and went on to raise their beautiful family. They also lived to see, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the reforms in federal labor and child labor law, and also mine safety, that they had once sacrificed for, protecting not only miners, but other working Americans. Frank was named “FDZ” in a nod to the great President FDR and he took pride in that. This may help to explain why Frank was never afraid to stand up for what he called “the Average Joe.”

In conclusion, Marlene wishes to add:

“I feel most fortunate that Frank Zanetell and I — strangers — crossed paths years ago at the Gunnison Post Office. I liked what I saw, and I think he did too. The rest is history. Surely, I can attest to his goodness. His faults and errors seem small to me. He lived as Jesus asked us to: with loving kindness. Surely, he should “dwell in the House of the Lord, forever.” Amen.

And finally, “we thank all of you for supporting Frank and our family in this time of need.”

 

 

Following is the “Eulogy” that the Zanetell family had prepared and originally hoped to share at Frank’s funeral mass

 

After graduating from Aguilar High School and a year at Trinidad Junior College, Frank was drafted, due to the Korean War. He was fortunate to be shipped, rather, to Europe and stationed near Berlin, Germany, at the headquarters of the Western Area Command Division under Commanding General William Reiber. Though trained as a Medical Aidman, he was soon placed on Temporary duty (TDY) and relieved of the routine G.I. schedule when he tried out and was selected for the Division Command Football Team “The Rhinos,” an elite group comprised mainly of college standouts and pro players who had also been drafted. They chose “The Kid” from Colorado as their Captain and, as such, Frank said he often had morning coffee with General Reiber to confer on team matters. The team, accompanied by the General and his wife, were flown to European cities, such as Paris and Amsterdam to take on other Divisional Command Football teams of the U.S. Army occupational forces. When his team won the European Theatre Football League championship, Frank was selected as MVP. General Reiber mentored Frank and as Frank’s two-year obligation was nearing an end, Reiber suggested he go to West Point, with the General’s help. Frank declined the offer of help, as his parents were getting older and he wanted to return to Colorado. And so, he did. And on to Western with five dollars in his pocket, he came.

At one time, Frank kept books and did taxes for local businesses, such as Miller Clothiers, The Oasis, the Columbine, Frank & Gal’s in Crested Butte, The Robbins Ranch and Auction Co. He clerked the many ranch auctions conducted in the 1960s by Maggie and Ed Robbins, pertinent to the properties west of Gunnison that were to be inundated by Blue Mesa Reservoir. Later, Frank focused on his own financial affairs, and actively managed his Four Seasons Apartment complex in Gunnison, often mentoring his tenants.

Over the years Frank took an interest in the well being of the county and the community, often discussing issues with friends over coffee: “Boys,” he’d say, “We’ve got serious problems.” If it was important enough, Frank showed up. Once, he brought his knowledge of school finance law and property taxes to a public meeting where he was instrumental in dissuading the school board from a proposal to break the school district into two county districts: the north to have the majority of the tax base, and the south to have the majority of the students.

He and his close friend Tracey Borah rallied alumni in the 1980s in the city-led effort to achieve legislation changing Western’s governance from the then Consortium of State colleges to make Western part of the Colorado University (CU) system, as the University of Colorado-Western at Gunnison. The measure passed the State Senate but failed in the House. In that effort, Frank met personally with the then CU President, Gordon Gee, who favored the proposal, on a horseback ride in the Gunnison Country. Today, the linkage he and so many others then thought wise, is now beginning to be forged by Western. Frank was pleased with that.

Frank long drove a classic ‘59 green Willis Jeep, a gift from his father-in-law, George Wright. He carried his young family in it on Sunday outings — cookouts, fishing, hiking — throughout the Gunnison National Forest. His sister Ann and her family, as well as close family friends Red and Susie Romack, often joined in these outings.

Frank enjoyed elk hunting; first, packing in with the Ed Casebolt family in the West Elk Wilderness, and later Frank hunted with his sons and grandchildren above the Lost Canyon area. He took great pride and joy in building a hand-hewn log cabin in that area in partnership with son David. “A work of art,” his sister Evelyn called it. And so the cabin was and remains- surely to be long enjoyed by family. Frank bagged his last elk at age 82, still exceptionally robust, just prior to the ill-advised open-heart surgery in January of 2016 which, in his case, was not beneficial, leaving him challenged with congestive heart failure for the remainder of his days. He did not “go gently into that good night.” To the end Frank thought he would beat it.

Frank had a gentle smile and a kind way. Over the years he enjoyed the friendship of many in the community. Some passed on before him but remained in his heart. In addition to those already noted, he felt a great kinship with County Sheriff George Cope, for whom he worked a year as Undersheriff; and Dr. Ron Meyer, whom he first met as a young man, walking around Gunnison with undiagnosed double pneumonia. Ron saved him. Good neighbors, side by side on the Gunnison River, were the Reitingers. 

As a miner’s son, he had an affinity for the old-timers in Crested Butte, who befriended him, such as the Somraks, Sporciches, Stajduhars, and Frank and Gail Staricka — whose bar he loved to polka at. The late Father John Kiernan was dear to him. Among the old pals held in his heart were Charles Alexander, Bill Rhodes, Tom Muhic, Joe “Peanuts” Berta, the Giambalvo’s, the Bardessonas, the Dosens of Aguilar, and his childhood pal there, Sugar Evancich. Over 60 friends joined Frank to celebrate his 85th birthday, with lunch and cake at the Elks Club in Gunnison. It meant a great deal to him.

Above all Frank described himself this way: “I am a family man.” He believed in education and supported David and Brooke in their pursuit of higher education — between them they have six college degrees. His pride in them knew no bounds. Each of them is doing good work and is accomplished and respected in their field of expertise. And they are dedicated, like their dad, to family. Recently, Frank said “I’ve had a good life,” as he reflected on his children and beautiful grandchildren.

Because Frank was marked by his understanding of the sacrifice and hardship his parents, Joe and Emma, had endured as a young couple who survived Colorado’s Southern Coal Field Mine Wars of the early 20th century, we should reflect on that here, just as Frank often did. Frank’s father went into the coal mines near Trinidad around age 12, working 12-hour shifts, six days a week, in order to support his widowed mother and his siblings. After Joe and Emma married, he was an organizer for the United Mine Workers, seeking better conditions for the miners. They met violence when the militia attacked striking mine families and they suffered great personal loss. Somehow, Joe and Emma endured and prevailed. Their personal experience in that pivotal time in Colorado’s history was recounted in a lengthy feature article published in the Rocky Mountain News, of March 3, 1985, based on the research of Dr. Eric Margolis, which is archived at CU-Boulder. Also, the Colorado History Museum featured the Zanetell story, as emblematic, in its noted exhibit on that era, and the Museum retains in its permanent collection their furnishings from the tent colony of striking miners at Forbes Mine, near Trinidad, Colo.

Though the strikes were crushed by the powerful mine owners, Joseph and Emma came through and went on to raise their beautiful family. They also lived to see, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the reforms in federal labor and child labor law, and also mine safety, that they had once sacrificed for, protecting not only miners, but other working Americans. Frank was named “FDZ” in a nod to the great President FDR and he took pride in that. This may help to explain why Frank was never afraid to stand up for what he called “the Average Joe.”

In conclusion, Marlene wishes to add:

“I feel most fortunate that Frank Zanetell and I — strangers — crossed paths years ago at the Gunnison Post Office. I liked what I saw, and I think he did too. The rest is history. Surely, I can attest to his goodness. His faults and errors seem small to me. He lived as Jesus asked us to: with loving kindness. Surely, he should “dwell in the House of the Lord, forever.” Amen.

And finally, “we thank all of you for supporting Frank and our family in this time of need.”