MADISON - David John Zehel, age 64, passed away at home after an illness on November 3, 2013.
Having lived a full life, he was born on August 10, 1949, to Joseph and Mary (Poklar) Zehel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
He was always proud of being 100% Slovenian and belonged to SNPJ for many years. He grew up in Bay View, where he always remembered listening to the foghorn while falling asleep. He attended UW-Platteville for his undergraduate degree and enlisted in the Army his last year due to the Vietnam War. He was instead sent to Athens, Greece, where he served in the 558th US Army Artillery Group (USAAG). He lived off base, causing him to fall in love with the culture and people of Greece. He always said this was the best time of his life, and to the end, he felt a connection. He was able to take his wife there many years ago, but his only regret was that he did not have the chance to take his beloved children there.
He returned to the states and went to Ball State University to earn his masters in Psychology / Counseling. He returned to Milwaukee and worked for Aetna (commercial insurance). He met his future wife (Guadalupe Negron) and they were married on July 16th, 1983. He was promoted to the Chicago office for Aetna and worked there for a few years while his wife finished her medical residency in Milwaukee. His son Kurt was born September 8, 1989, and soon after he decided to get a Ph.D in Industrial Engineering in Madison, Wisconsin. The family moved to Madison in 1990 and his daughter Julia was born June 24th, 1991. He earned his doctorate and lectured at UW-Whitewater in his field and later retired.
His greatest joy in life was becoming a father. He filled those shoes with so much enthusiasm and he was their rock from infancy to young adults. He encouraged them to try many things in life— swimming from the age of 6 months, skiing, biking, certified scuba divers, etc. He taught them to love reading and emphasized listening to all sides before making a decision. If he did not agree with them, he always asked them to listen to his reasoning. He was a thinker before action type of man.
His marriage lasted 30 years and as he put it to his wife when he found out about his diagnosis, "Well, Lupe, we have had quite a ride together." His courage and concern for everybody else came through to the very last days. He wanted no one to suffer because of his condition and his bravery was contagious. Here is when we must say thank you: first of all, to Dr. Hei , his oncologist, who David admired, trusted, and bonded with; all the nurses and crew at 8 Tower at Meriter Hospital who made David feel so special. All were respectful and kind -- great qualities in their profession.
David's most recognizable quality was his sense of humor, which defined him. He made people laugh no matter where he went or who was with. This humor was even with him the last 24 hours. His mother-in-law Mireya, told him she loved him very much and asked him "Do you love me?" With difficulty but firmly he looked at her and said, "I better." He then told her he loved her very much.
David loved and was quite knowledgeable about aviation (air shows/museum visits), cars (auto shows/magazines), writing (writing classes/started a novel), photography (photographer for his children's swim teams from All Cities to Memorial High School through Lacrosse University).
He was a World War II history buff and he could spoil a movie when he would point out that a certain airplane model in the film was not even produced at that time.
Of all the sports he loved , he loved skiing the most. He got the chance to ski in France, in the Rockies, and in the UP with his family. The only one he could not turn into a skier was his wife. God can play tricks too, since it seems mostly opposites attract.
He is survived by wife Guadalupe, children Kurt and Julia, and sister Cynthia Perich. He was preceded in death by his parents Joseph and Mary (Poklar) Zehel / grandparents.
The last thank yous are to Heartland Hospice Care. The family could not have managed without their assistance and support in guiding and us through this extremely difficult time.
We believe that David is in paradise getting it ready for us when we reunite—and probably making the angels laugh.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 13, 2013, at OUR LADY QUEEN OF PEACE CATHOLIC CHURCH, 401 S. Owen Drive, with Msgr. Kenneth Fiedler presiding. Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. until the time of Mass at church on Wednesday.
For further information, please visit: www.ryanfuneralservice.com.