Obituary: Donald J. Zehnder Jr., 53

The Naugatuck resident "was the epitome of the spirit of the 'fighting Irish' in everything he did in life."

Donald J. Zehnder Jr. Credit: The Zehnder Family
Donald J. Zehnder Jr. Credit: The Zehnder Family

Patch is publishing this obituary as it was supplied by the Zehnder family.

Donald J. Zehnder Jr.       

September 5, 1959 – July 5, 2013

Donald J. Zehnder Jr. was known as “Zeke” to everyone who knew him. He proudly attended the University of Notre Dame and was the epitome of the spirit of the ”fighting Irish” in everything he did in life. One did not have to be around him long to understand his pride in the University of Notre Dame and everything that it stood for.

Notre Dame football has a sign that says “play like a champion” on the wall of the football locker room as the players enter the field. Zeke adopted this creed and “lived” like a champion in his personal and professional life every day. Everyone who came to know him came to understand this.

Zeke followed his father's footsteps at Notre Dame and after graduation from Catholic University Law School began to practice law in Naugatuck, Connecticut. It was a general practice where the client was the end and not a means to an end. Zeke would routinely under charge clients if he felt they needed his help. His intellect and compassion served all of his clients for the better.

Zeke loved Naugatuck, Connecticut and the United States of America. God, country and family. He was active in local and state Republican politics. His involvement was unique in that it was never self-serving, but rather was motivated by his desire to serve.

Zeke was athletic throughout his life. After receiving awards in high school football, he continued his endeavors at Notre Dame on the rugby team. He regaled all who would listen as to his “best hit” award received at Notre Dame for his rugby play. While there he served as captain of the rugby team in his senior year.

Zeke had a natural curiosity about life and loved traveling. His travel included trips to Ireland, Iceland, Hawaii, Thailand, England, Germany and Italy. Zeke had a natural affinity for an interest in the cultures and people of the world.

In addition to what he accomplished in his personal and professional life, the true measure of those who knew Zeke was in his personal relationships. Everyone who had the privilege to know him has special memories to treasure. He loved people, and people loved him.

Zeke lived life to the fullest and had eclectic interests. He loved Notre Dame and everything it stood for. He also loved the New York Giants football team and the Boston Red Sox baseball team. He loved James Taylor at Tanglewood and playing golf with friends. He also loved history and had an encyclopedic knowledge of world events. Anyone who was unlucky enough to debate him in world history soon learned of their mistake.

Throughout his life Zeke touched many lives and will always be cherished. The world is a lesser place with his departure, but heaven has received a new Angel that will shine forever.


He is survived by his father, Donald J. Zehnder Sr. of Naugatuck; his sister Shawn and her husband Jeffrey Larsen, and nephew Connor Larsen of Needham, Mass.; his sister Gail and her husband Daniel Laterza of Salem, Mass.; and his brother, Terence Zehnder and his wife, Denise, and his nephew, godson Kenneth A. Zehnder, also of Naugatuck. Donald also leaves behind several aunts, uncles and cousins.

He is predeceased by his mother, Mary Graney Zehnder, and nephew, Ryan Larson.

The family is requesting your presence on Wednesday, July 10, at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 318 Church St., Naugatuck, CT, for a 9:30 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial; interment will be private.

Read how Naugatuck residents are remembering Mr. Zehnder in this article Patch published on July 5, 2013.
Angela Matusz July 06, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Zeke you will always be remembered for your infectious smile. We will miss you. Go Irish
Jan J. Mizeski July 07, 2013 at 02:37 AM
My condolences to the family. God Bless You Zeke! You are going to be missed.
Larry Byrne July 07, 2013 at 10:55 AM
God bless and keep you, my friend. Although friends for a short time, with you I knew I had a friend forever. To me, you embodied our Irish standard: "Dance as if no one were watching. Sing as if no one were listening, and Live every day as if it were your last." Mo Anam Cara


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