The song has ended but the memory lingers on. Ronald L. Zitta ("Mr. Z") passed away Tuesday, June 10, 2014 at Brittany Manor Nursing Home in Midland, surrounded by his loving family. He was 82 years old. Ronald was born in Detroit April 15, 1932 to Leo F. Zitta and Angeline (Bonefede). As a young boy, his family moved from Detroit to what was then the "Village of Warren." He went to Halmich School, which was a one-room school with six grades in it. From there he went on to graduate from Warren High School in 1950 where he played baseball (pitcher) and ran track, breaking records in many field events.
During his youth, his Italian mother insisted that he play a musical instrument that "he could carry and play for weddings." Hence, the instrument of choice was the accordion. By 1947, after several years of lessons, he formed his first four-piece band called "The Twilighters." After graduation from high school, he was employed on his first job at Briggs Manufacturing Company, which made parts for cars.
In 1951, he enlisted in the United States Air Force
. He served four years in Special Services and entertained in USO's, Service Clubs and was on stage with many entertainers including Ray Anthony, Dorsey Brothers, Count Basie and Lionel Hampton, to name a few. He was honorably discharged in 1955.
On Oct. 20, 1951, which was also Sweetest Day, he married Margaret M. (Brinker), his childhood sweetheart who had also attended the same one-room school at the same time. They shared and celebrated 62 years of marriage, four children and many years of music.
After the Air Force, he joined the Detroit Federation of Musicians. Within days he received a call from the Georgian Bay Lines with a job offer as a musician about the S.S. North American cruise ship, which he immediately accepted. The summers from 1955-59 he sailed the Great Lakes as the Orchestra Leader. In 1955, he enrolled in Lawrence Technological University. He graduated in 1959 with a B.A. in Architectural Engineering. He also had a Professional Engineer license for the State of Michigan. In 1959, he accepted a job with The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) in Detroit. His first design project was the Centennial A&P Store in Midland.
In 1964 he accepted a position with Delta Engineering of Bay City. The family left Madison Heights, and moved to Midland where Ron worked at The Dow Corning Corp. In 1965, he was hired directly by Dow Corning where he was Engineering Supervisor for the Civil Architectural Department. One major project was the Dow Corning employee's Medical Facility in Midland. He was also involved coordinating key phases for expansions at the Medical Products Plant in Hemlock, plants in Carrolton, Kentucky and the development of the Corporate Center on Salzburg Road. After 27 years of dedicated service he retired in 1991.
Ronald was always active with interests that included fishing, hunting, golf, travel and spending time with many friends, but his music was always the key part of his life. After cruising the Great Lakes he continued making music with his four-piece dance band known as "The Chek-Mates" for weddings, dances and private parties and events. He played at the Sky Room in Freeland, Soaring Eagle, The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, The Elks Club
, Midland Community Center and more. He had many fans of his accordion and keyboard music that followed him so they could ballroom dance. He became known as Mr. "Z." He was always busy with his music career working many evening and weekend jobs for the love of music.
Mr. "Z" played for fundraisers over the years for both Dave Camp and Bill Schuette. Once when playing for Schuette at The Great Hall, he met President Gerald Ford. Mr. "Z" had obtained the sheet music to "Hail to The Chief," much to Mr. Ford's surprise, and had it autographed and framed as a keepsake memento. Working for Dave Camp always meant a fun-packed day at The Tridge with good food, good friends and good music. He always looked forward to these events where he could provide musical entertainment for many people to enjoy.
After retirement from Dow Corning, Ronald often volunteered his musical talent at many senior centers and nursing homes including Brittany Manor. As a member of St. Agnes Parish in Sanford, he provided the accordion music for the Polka Masses. The most special times were with his family who cherished his music at birthdays and special events. All the grandkids enjoyed dancing and "break dancing" to Papa's accordion music bringing smiles to everyone. Family and friends cherish his music on recorded CD's and even more so now.
Ronald was a caring and generous person who contributed money monthly for years to the Christian Foundation for Children, supporting young Josephine from Zamboanga City in the Phillipines, to help with her education.
Ronald is survived by his loving wife, Margaret M. (Brinker); son, Ronald V. (Delite) Zitta of Sanford; daughters, Kristine (Ragnar) Avery of Kalkaska, Kelly (Randall) Cook of Leslie and Karen Sugar of Brighton. Grandchildren are Rachel Zitta, Angela (Kris) Weide, Amanda (Kevin) Myers, Kyle Niekowal, Jamie Niekowal, Chad Niekowal, Alex (Leanne) Sugar, Hailey Sugar; plus seven great-grandchildren. He is also survived by a sister, Elizabeth (Raymond) Quenneville; and brother, Joseph Zitta. He was preceded in death by his parents; and brother-in-law, Frederick Brinker.
A special thank-you to the caring Staff at Brittany Manor and Heartland Hospice Services. Ronald will be sorely missed by his family and many friends, all who enjoyed his wonderful music.
The funeral liturgy will be celebrated 11 a.m. Friday, June 13, 2014 at Our Lady of Grace (St. Agnes Catholic Church), with Fr. Dan Fox OFM, Cap officiating. The Rite of Committal will follow in St. Agnes Cemetery. Family will receive friends at the Wilson MILLER Funeral Home, 4210 N. Saginaw Road on Thursday, from 2-8 p.m., and at the church on Friday, from 10 a.m. until the time of service. Memorials may be offered to Our Lady of Grace, Sanford or
. Personal messages of condolence may be offered to the family at www.wilson-miller.com