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Joseph Richard "Joe" Zeller


1918 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
A dedicated public servant, always willing to share his life experiences with young or old, has now departed from his Earthly mission. Joseph (Joe) Richard Zeller came into this World September 19, 1918 in Campus, Illinois, son of the late Carl and Frances (Kunkel) Zeller. He departed December 12, 2018 at the age of 100 years young in his favorite room of the house he proudly built near New Tripoli. He believed being positive would achieve personal goals and that every generation will meet their challenges to keep our Nation strong. Zeller daily sported his signature patriotic neckties. Joe came into the world during the last months of WWI and lived through the Spanish Flu which claimed Brother Leo. Joe's youth was shaped by many factors: at age 11 his Mother died; his Father's clientele as a tavern owner included Al Capone; dedication to the Catholic Church teachings; Depression loss of family home and business and finally as a teen, along with younger brother Frank, being sent to Southern Indiana to be farmhands and operators of an Aunt's sizeable illegal moonshine production. After Federal Agents raided his Aunt's operation, these two teens fled to Chicago hidden in a load of furniture. Joe, who also boxed in the Golden Gloves competition in Chicago, took care of himself and Frank by working in restaurants and selling vacuum cleaners until he became an apprentice electrician in 1938 in Wausau, Wisconsin and a journeyman electrician in 1941. This set the stage for over three years of WWII service where he earned the rank of AEMC- Aviation Electrician Mate Chief in the Navy, including 2 years aboard the USS Ranger CV-4 carrier with combat in Operation Torch in Casablanca and Operation Leader along the German occupied coast of Norway. He was recalled during the Korean War. Joe, denied education beyond 8th grade, earned his GED in the Navy, using the GI Bill to earn a degree in Electrical Engineering at Penn State's night school. In the 1950's Joe's love of people emerged as the organizer of the Emmaus Taxpayers League and his election as Councilman and Mayor of the Borough of Emmaus. In 1970 Joe was elected to the first of five terms as a Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 134th District of Lehigh County, dedicating himself to assisting volunteer fire/ambulance services. He served twelve years as a Council Member of the Governor's Justice Commission; a decade on the Advisory Board of LCCC and as Columnist for Lehigh Valley locals for more than two decades. In addition to public service, his career in Electrical Engineering was highlighted with 10 years with E.C. Ernst Electrical Contractors of Washington, D.C. supervising projects like Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, the original Schaefer Brewery of Breinigsville and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Project. Zeller held membership in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (I.B.E.W. Local 375) for 77 years. Among numerous memberships, associations and community causes, Zeller contributed 50 years as a Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor; a major player in keeping the historic Soldiers and Sailors Monument rooted at Center Square despite a 1960's push to relocate it to West Park; successfully challenging his own Priest during an illegal bingo operation; defeating the State Civil Liberties Union's drive to remove a taxpayer purchased Nativity from the Emmaus Triangle; key player to block the building of the Trexler Dam in Western Lehigh in the 1970's; and serving as a public speaker for over 45 years. Assisting and honoring fellow Veterans was a priority, including formation of the Brig. Gen. Anna Mae V. McCabe Hays VFW Post 12099 in Allentown. Recently his untiring energy was directed to Seipstown Grange #1657; Lehigh Valley Beekeepers Association; the Emmaus Historical Society/Shelter House/1803 House; 20 year tenure as Treasurer of the USS Ranger CV-4 Reunion Group; Allentown's Liberty Bell Museum and the Zeller Family Reunion Group of Lebanon County home to his beloved Ft. Zeller (1745). Zeller served as "hands on" Chair of the 300th Anniversary weekend of Zeller/s in America in 2010; the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in 1999 and Allentown Flag Day Association in 2007; and the Korean War 50th Anniversary in the Lehigh Valley where more than 1200 appreciation medallions were presented in behalf of South Korea. His patriotism never wavered with more than 70 years membership in both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars; Founder/President of the Emmaus Flag Day Association and Past President of the Allentown Flag Day Association. Survivors: Ann Wertman, his beloved partner of more than 40 years. He is survived by three daughters; Brenda, Laura and Margaret and five grandchildren from his earlier marriage to Marjorie Lawless Zeller. Siblings Carl, John, Leo, Frank and Irene preceded him in death. Services: Private burial, Indiantown Gap National Cemetery. Online condolences may be offered at www.KellerFuneralHomes.com. Contributions: VFW Post 12099 of Allentown to assist fellow Veterans or historic Liberty Bell Museum of Allentown to keep local history alive, both in care of the Keller Funeral Home, Inc., PO Box 52, Fogelsville, 18051.
Published in Morning Call on Dec. 16, 2018
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