Vincent Leo Zehren
Zehren - Vincent Leo, 96, a world-renowned cheesemaker and dairy scientist, died of natural causes on Thursday, November 5, 2020 at his home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he lived for 66 years.
He was born on November 19, 1923 in the living quarters of the family's Belle Plaine and Richmond Cheese and Butter Association factory located between Shawano and Pella, Wisconsin to his parents Leo and Agnes (Loughrin) Zehren. Part of a line of award-winning Wisconsin cheesemakers whose history stretches back to the early days of the state's industry, he grew up working side-by-side with his father, receiving his cheesemaking license on October 19, 1942 shortly before his 20th birthday. After graduating from Shawano High School in 1941, he interrupted his studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin on December 4, 1942 to voluntarily enlist in the U.S. Army amid World War II. Assigned to the 328th Regimental Antitank Company of the 26th Infantry Division in General Patton's 3rd Army (the Yankee Division), he was in combat in the Battles of Northern France, Ardennes (the Battle of the Bulge), Rhineland and Central Europe. In all he was in combat for 222 days, surviving many near brushes with death, and for his service he earned numerous awards and medals, including four Bronze Battle Stars and a Purple Heart. Upon honorable discharge from the Army on January 2, 1946, he returned to work with his father in the family cheese making business before returning to St. Norbert College from which he graduated with a degree in Chemistry in 1948.
He went on to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned an M.S. in Dairy Industry in 1950 and a Ph.D. in Food Science and Biochemistry in 1954. The first University of Wisconsin student to be awarded a Fulbright grant, he studied under the Fulbright Research Scholarship program at Massey Agricultural College of the University of New Zealand and traveled the world from 1952 to 1953. (At the age of 75 he earned an M.S. in Business Administration from Kentucky Western University.)
Upon completion of his doctoral studies and travels, he married his fellow Ph.D. student and research collaborator Virginia Mularz, Ph.D., a former scientist at Kraft Foods in Chicago, Illinois. The couple moved to Green Bay where in November 1954 he began his long and successful career with Schreiber Foods Inc. which grew into one of the world's largest private dairy companies. Joining 12 other employees in purchasing the company in 1962, he served as Technical Director, Director of Manufacturing Practices, Vice President of Industrial Affairs, a Member of the Board of Directors since 1988 and in other senior corporate capacities throughout his entire adult life until shortly before his death. In 1992, he authored the book "Process Cheese," which chronicled his contribution to the invention, development, and manufacture of the now popular food staple. His partner in scientific research and life, Virginia was the driving force behind his personal and professional success.
A global industry leader and respected scientist, he literally traveled the world - South and Central America, Europe, Russia, China, India, Africa, the Middle East, the Arctic and Trans-Arctic - often with Virginia and his children, advancing the growth of Schreiber Foods, the U.S. dairy industry and American science, spending considerable time helping modernize and upgrade product quality, facilities and public health. For 10 years, he was research chairman of the National Cheese Institute, which provides major recommendations to U.S. policy makers. He also played an important role in helping build Green Bay's modern business community and spur local economic development from his post as chairman of the Green Bay Areas Chamber of Commerce Biotechnology Subcommittee.
In 1977, Vincent became the first recipient of St. Norbert College's Distinguished Achievement Award in Natural Sciences. Vincent was also honored to receive the St. Norbert College Alma Mater Award in June 2005, and in 2016 he was awarded a LLB honorary degree from St. Norbert College. In 1986, Schreiber Foods established the Vincent L. Zehren Award for Excellence in Applied Technology, making him the first recipient. That same year, he received the "Outstanding Contribution to Agriculture in Brown County" from the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Governor's Council on Biotechnology and in 1989, the National Cheese Institute honored him as the first recipient of its Laureate Award. The United States Information Agency honored him in 1997 for training the Russian Dairy Products Delegation in Wisconsin.
Active in his community, he also served as President of the Downtown Kiwanis Club, President of the Resurrection School Board and supported the Boy Scouts of America. A man of profound Catholic faith including serving as Knight Commander of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, expansive charity and personal and professional accomplishment, his greatest attribute was his ability to form lasting bonds of friendship with people throughout the world from all walks of life. A wonderful son, brother, father, uncle, colleague, and true friend to many, he dedicated his later years to caring for Zachary, his youngest son with special needs. The familiar pair formed a deep bond and grew to be well-known and embraced by the Green Bay community.
In addition to his wife Virginia, who passed away in 1993, he was preceded in death by his sister Maribeth Shelendich, who is survived by her husband John Shelendich of North Oaks, Minnesota; his brother Roger, husband of his sister-in-law Peggy (Kallin) of Winona, Minnesota; and his brother-in-law Howard Jacques, husband of his sister Joan of Green Bay. He is survived by his brother John Zehren and his wife Ruth (Dillenburg) of Green Bay; his brother Leo Zehren and his wife Janet (Ebert) of De Pere, Wisconsin; and his sister Catherine and husband Harry Mueller of De Pere, Wisconsin.
His immediate survivors daughter Margaret Zehren Moores and her husband James Moores and her son Matthew Barry of Beaufort, North Carolina; his daughter Maria Zehren and her husband Don Salmon of Green Bay; his son Charles V. Zehren and his wife Patricia Kean and their children Benjamin and Ethan of New York City; his son Christopher Zehren and his wife Andrea Baier and their children Simone and Spencer of Washington, D.C.; his son Craig Zehren of Ocean Springs, Mississippi; and his son Zachary Zehren of Green Bay mourn the loss of a beloved father and grandparent.
The entire family extends their most profound thanks and gratitude to the dedicated caregivers, especially Nancy Close, who gave so deeply of themselves in attending Vincent during his later years.
The visitation will be held at Resurrection Catholic Church, 333 Hilltop Drive, Green Bay, Wisconsin from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on Monday, November 16, 2020. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 11 a.m. with Fr. Tom Reynebeau, celebrant and Fr. Paul DeMuth, con-celebrant. A graveside service and burial will occur after the funeral Mass at Allouez Catholic Cemetery, 2121 Riverside Drive, Green Bay with full military honors. Masks and social distancing requirements will be followed. The funeral service will be live streamed at www.gbres.org/live
> for those wishing to participate remotely. To leave an online condolence for the family, please visit www.NewcomerGreenBay.com
In lieu of flowers, memorials directed to St. Norbert College or to the Virginia Mularz Zehren Scholarship Fund at Bellin College in Vincent's name are appreciated.