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Wasyl "Bill" Zazula

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CUT BANK - Wasyl "Bill" Zazula, 88, retired railroad section worker from Cut Bank, died of a sudden abdominal aortic aneurysm on Wednesday, June 13, at Northern Rockies Medical Center.

Visitation is 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday at Whitted Funeral Chapel in Cut Bank, followed by a Rosary at 6:45 p.m. and a 7 p.m. vigil service at St. Margaret Catholic Church. Funeral Mass is 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the church. Burial to follow in Crown Hill Cemetery. Whitted Funeral Chapel is handling arrangements.

He was born Jan. 1, 1924, at Dublany, Poland (now the Ukraine), where he was raised. In 1942, at the age of 18, he was taken by the invading German Army to work as slave labor on a farm near Darrensiemen, Germany, where he worked for the remainder of the war.

While there he met and courted the lovely Anna Zacharchuk. They were married Feb. 19, 1946, at Heilbronn, Germany, in a double ring ceremony with friend Ted and Anna Danczak. In 1948, they had Zenon, their first child, in Karlsruhe, Germany.

In the post-war years from 1946 to 1950, the family was at the Displaced Persons camp near Karlsruhe, Germany, where thousands of people who were displaced during the war were either repatriated to their original homeland or sent to other countries that would accept them.

In 1950, Wasyl and Anna found a sponsor, Herb Schafer of Cut Bank. So with $5 in his pockets, Wasyl, with his young family, immigrated directly to Cut Bank, where two days after arriving he went to work on the Cut Bank section for the Great Northern Railway. Wasyl and Anna had their second child, Irene, in 1953 in Cut Bank. Irene passed away in 1991 in a tragic accident.

Wasyl worked for 34 years for BNSF, retiring in 1984. However, retiring did not mean to stop working for Wasyl, and he often worked 10 hour days doing gardening, lawn care and snow shoveling for local residents around Cut Bank, including the Hupps, the Bells, the Frarys, the Krapfs, among numerous others. He also did custodial work for many of his years in Cut Bank, including Montana Power Company, the Cut Bank Library, the Texaco Company and others. On top of it all, he maintained his own house and yard in a meticulous manner, and was well known for his gardening and flower raising skills. Wasyl was proficient in Ukranian, Polish, English, and Russian languages.

Wasyl was a loving man who was devoted to taking care of his family. He often said all he ever knew what to do was work hard, and he raised that saying to an art form during his life. One always knew where you stood with Wasyl as his honest and open opinions and thoughts were readily recognized. He had a wry sense of humor that not only recognized the absurdities of life, but also a sharp understanding of human nature. He enjoyed a shot of vodka, and he and Anna frequently entertained their numerous friends with long evenings of celebrating life. Wasyl will be sorely missed by all the people who ever came in contact with him.

Wasyl is survived by his wife of 66 years, Anna of Cut Bank; son Zenon Zazula of Redmond, Wash.; nieces Christine S. Olinyk Georgedes of Poway, Calif., Alexandra (Sandy) Olinyk of San Diego, Calif., Olena Tymshie of Dublany, Ukraine and Irena Zazula of Samber, Ukraine.

He is preceded in death by his parents Dmytro & Karoline (Skolniki) Zazula; daughter, Irene Zazula; sister, Olena Zazula and brother, Walter Zazula.

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Published in Great Falls Tribune on June 17, 2012