Raymond E. Zahner - known as Papa Ray or Grumpy - left earth to be with the God he loved on Saturday, May 28, 2022. He was born on April 27, 1934 and lived a very happy life of 88 years. As a die-hard Tiger fan he knew the Tigers had just won a game against Cleveland, but his brother was certainly celebrating the next game wherein the Cleveland Guardians won 8 to 2. You can imagine the conversations of he and his brothers, Ab and Ed, over sports in heaven. There were always taunts and teases between them at family events and on the phone.
Ray was born in Townville, the son of the late Albert and Margaret (Haspel) Zahner. He graduated valedictorian of his class at Townville High School. Ray loved playing basketball and baseball. He listened to the Detroit Tigers on the radio as a kid and even wrote to the baseball association to complain about Howard Cosell's broadcasting. During his junior year, his father became ill and Ray had to help with the family farm. His arrangement with the high school was that he would pick up his homework off the bus each day and return it with the bus driver the next morning. This is just one great example of his character and determination.
The farm on a hill in Townville is a place he cherished and on his long drives in the country, with his dog, he would often drive by to reminisce. His stories were filled with his love for the countryside and the people he grew up with.
In June of 1954 Ray married the love of his life, Anabel Lee. Everyone remembers Ray as a happy and extraordinarily kind individual. As a couple they attended St. Paul's United Church of Christ and then the Presbyterian Church. They were always there for their church family as leaders and by helping those that needed it most. Dad specifically liked the men's breakfast because he loved food and the camaraderie of the group.
Ray retired in 1995 from National Fuel Gas, after 43 years of service. He only ever worked at one place. He became well known for his knowledge of gas burning appliances and started his own business. He was the person everyone would call at any time of day or night if their furnace didn't come on or their pool wasn't working. He charged well below cost and sometimes worked for free. As a jack-of-all-trades Ray completely remodeled two homes for his family and rarely called on anyone else for help.
Ray and Anabel spent sixty years together. They volunteered for Big Brother & Big Sisters for eight years. They traveled around the U.S., vacationed during the winter in Myrtle Beach and frequently visited with their children and grandchildren. Much family time was spent watching him play baseball with the Pleasantville Sparks. Bowling was another sport that he was exceptional at and he played with Bertram's bowling team. Ray was athletic his entire life. After retirement golf became the second love of his life. He LOVED the Detroit Tigers and Nascar/Jeff Gordon and went to several races with his kids.
Ray loved dogs. He built a ramp on his bike for one of his dogs and one (Fergie) took up residence at Southwoods and was adored by all of the staff and residents.
More than anything, time with this family, grandchildren and great grandchildren was what mattered. Whether it was helping his daughter with the construction of her home, early breakfasts at McDonalds, songs that were dedicated on the radio with grandchildren, playing putt-putt golf and wiffle ball, going to Disney/Universal Studio, the football Hall of Fame, giving horseback rides, or playtime with the seven dwarfs - they were all important memory-making moments.
Ray was kind, generous, and loved life. He had no time for complaining. He abhorred pretentiousness, braggarts and loved food. He wanted to be someone that others could trust. He cared deeply for his close friends. They were an integral part of his happiness on earth.
Ray lived at Southwoods in Titusville after selling his home in 2015. He was preceded in death by his parents, his wife Anabel (2014), a little brother, Harry Zahner (1931), and his two brothers Edwin Zahner (2011) and Albert Zahner (2017) along with many in-laws. The family would like to thank Southwoods Assisted Living and Hospice for their excellent care. A special thank you is for Dr. Richard Whalen, a great doctor and friend to him; Linda Jordan, Terry Brunst, and Dolly Moore for your unfailing help with both parents, and Patty for her endearing friendship.
He will be incredibly missed by his children and partners: Ron Zahner (fiancé Marianne), Gayle Walters (Steve), Debbie Weidner (Rob), Sharon Horger (John). His grandchildren and great-grandchildren brightened his days and his room was adorned with photos of them. He enjoyed the Zoom calls that helped him see all of them growing over the past two years. His grandchildren include Bethany Zahner, Justin Weidner (Erin), Zach Weidner (Erika) Amy Tarrant (Daniel), Zara Brunner (Josh) and step-grandchild Michael Smith. Great-grandchildren are Anakin, Nevaeh, Noah, Trinity, Gavin, Liam, Everly and Elijah.
At Ray's request there will be no funeral ceremony. Interment will be in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Arrangements are being handled by Gordon Garrett Funeral Home. A celebration of life will be held in July and announcements will be posted in the newspaper and online.