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Jack Francis Zanks

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Jack Francis Zanks Obituary
POQUOSON - Jack Francis Zanks, 90, died peacefully Sunday, December 14, 2014. Jack was born in Easton, PA on October 26, 1924. The family moved to Bloomsbury, NJ in 1928. He attended school in Bloomsbury and high school in Phillipsburg, NJ. Upon graduation from high school Jack enrolled in 1942 to study engineering at Lafayette College. He was drafted in 1944 to serve in the Corp of Engineers. He served two years and after he was discharged in 1946 returned to Lafayette and graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1948. He moved to Hampton one week after graduation to work with NACA. He married his high school sweetheart in October, 1948 and set up housekeeping in Elizabeth City County (now Hampton, VA) and joined the First Presbyterian Church of Hampton. His work at NACA consisted of the design and construction of instruments to measure many different parameters of flight. In 1957 (after Sputnik), he became involved with the development of the Mercury capsule. He was responsible for the pyro technique devices which separated the capsule from the escape tower and other related operations. These were tested at Wallops Island. During preparations for a flight and landing on the moon, the sterilization of the lander and its instrumentation became mandatory. Jack spent two years developing and testing equipment to do this and allow sterile replacement electronics of parts if required. He also served as project engineer on the completely computerized flight and navigation system on a test 737 jet transport. During the time spent at NASA (formerly NACA) he became interested in sailing. In his spare time he built 3 sailboats from bare hull to finished vessels. He raced these boats along with several others on the Chesapeake Bay for 30 years. He raced several ocean races including 3 trips to Bermuda. In 1970 and 1971 he was elected Commodore of the Hampton Yacht Club; he monitored the construction of the new clubhouse during this period. Near the end of his career at NASA, Jack took up a dormant skill of oil painting. He studied with several local artists with emphasis on wildlife, seascapes, lighthouses, and the like. The painting developed into a small business with paintings ending up in almost every state in the USA. He won numerous awards for his work in oil painting and water colors. After 31 years of service, he retired from NASA. He and his wife cruised on their sailboat for the next 10 plus years. They cruised to Florida for the winters, including the west coast of Florida, through all the Keys to Key West, and over to the Bahamas. Surviving members of his family include his beloved wife of 66 years, Lois Ruth Zanks; children, David Alan Zanks and wife Marsha of Poquoson, Debbie Woody Fisher and husband David of Poquoson; grandchildren, Kristi Lynn Parker, Kelly Ryan Woody, Shelby Morgan Zanks, and James Brayden Zanks, all of Poquoson and Bryan Christopher Fisher of Hampton; and great-grandchildren, Rachel Faith Chattin and Tristan Blake Parker.A memorial service will be held at 10:15 am, Wednesday, December 17, at First Presbyterian Church, 514 S. Armistead Avenue, Hampton. Following the service, the family will receive friends at the Hampton Yacht Club, 4707 Victoria Blvd. Hampton, VA 23666. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Poquoson Art League, 116 Lodge Road, Poquoson, VA 23662. Friends are encouraged to visit www.parklawn-woodfh.com to share memories and words of condolence with the family. Arrangements are under the care of Parklawn-Wood Funeral Home, 2551 N. Armistead Ave., Hampton, VA 23666.
Published in Daily Press on Dec. 16, 2014
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