John M. Zetzl Sr.
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John M. Zetzl Sr.

Brownsburg - John Michael Zetzl Sr., passed away May 23, 2020 at the age of 88. John was born in Indianapolis to the late John and Marie (Scheckelreiter) Zetzl. He was a proud member of the 1949 graduating class of Sacred Heart High School in Indianapolis where he was honored as valedictorian. He always looked forward to the quarterly meetings of the "49ers." After serving his country during the Korean War, he later earned a degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University.

John's parents immigrated to the U.S. from Germany in the late 1920's and met each other in Indianapolis while taking classes to learn the English language. They instilled in him the importance of education, Christian values and honest hard work (values he would pass down to his own children). At the age of thirteen he began working construction for his uncle Max and held numerous odd jobs throughout his formative years including grocery stocker, baker, butcher and electronic repair technician. The last job would prove inspirational to his ultimate career path. John worked at the Naval Avionics facility (later acquired by Hughes/Raytheon) for 40 years developing guidance systems for state of the art munitions. He retired in 2001, but during his tenure he made many life-long friends and always enjoyed the retiree's regular get togethers.

During his Purdue years, John met the love of his life, nurse Janet Hawkins. In 1959 they were married and purchased a modest two bedroom Cape Cod style house in Speedway which would be their home for the next 42 years. However, it didn't take long before their growing family outsized the floorplan. Due to the proximity to their church and a great fondness for the neighbors, moving proved out of the question and renovations were soon underway. Merely a few blocks from IMS, the annual Indy 500 became an exciting family tradition.

Raising six kids required great patience and understanding. There were more than a few uncomfortable conversations explaining the latest fender bender, medical emergency (generally the result of mischievous horseplay) or broken windows (usually our house, but a few times we found the mark on a neighboring house). But despite the challenges, there was always support for music lessons, scouting, athletics and the like.

John enjoyed classical music and was a fine pianist. He was a member of Saint Christopher Catholic Church in Speedway. His family was among the founding members of this parish in 1937. John served the church as a Eucharistic minister for many years and also found great satisfaction volunteering at Saint Vincent de Paul Society in his retirement years.

A mass and celebration of his life will take place on June 27, 2020 at Saint Christopher Church in Speedway. Calling will be from 9am to 11am will the Funeral Mass immediately following. John is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janet E. Zetzl and his six children Larry (Lisa) Zetzl (Avon, IN), Mary (Robert) Rancourt (Carmel, IN), Susan Zetzl (Columbia, SC), John (Amy) Zetzl Jr. (Hagerstown, IN), Jim (Heather) Zetzl (Zionsville, IN) and Dan (Kelli) Zetzl (Bartlett, IL). Four siblings also survive him, Alfred Zetzl, Father Ralph Zetzl, Robert Zetzl and Linda Stewart. In addition he was blessed with fourteen grandchildren (Mark Zetzl, Matthew (Christine) Zetzl, Sister Lucia Christi (Laura) Zetzl, Nicholas Zetzl, Elizabeth Rancourt, Veronica Rancourt, Regina Rancourt, Claire Rancourt, Kelsey Zetzl, Madison Zetzl, Anna Zetzl, Sarah Zetzl, Adelyn Zetzl and Zoe Zetzl) and one great-grandchild (Leo Zetzl). In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his honor to Saint Vincent de Paul Society (3001 E. 30th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46218 or or the Spina Bifida Association of Indiana (PO Box 19814, Indianapolis, IN 46219-0814 or

Arrangements handled by Flanner Buchanan - Speedway. Online condolences and a video tribute may be viewed at

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Published in The Indianapolis Star from May 27 to May 28, 2020.
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3 entries
June 26, 2020
Susan: My prayers are with you, your Mom and the rest of your family.
Tammy (Cecil) Slaughter
June 2, 2020
I knew John and his lovely wife Jan from my Speedway days. They lived next door to my ex in-laws Earl and Loraine Howard on Gerrard Street in Speedway.Some of the nicest people you could ever meet. Prayers for the Zetzl family.
Darla Reynolds
May 29, 2020
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