A family man, firefighter, friend – and so much more

December 17, 2007

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

When Dave Zitzloff asked you to do something – you wanted to do it.

Maybe not for yourself, or even the community necessarily, but for Dave.

Involved in countless things around the Delano community throughout his lifetime, Zitzloff “only spoke when he had something really important to say,” said Delano Mayor Joe McDonald. “But, when he spoke – people listened.”

That voice behind so many good things in Delano has been silenced by cancer. At the age of 52, Zitzloff passed away Wednesday.

“I can’t even tell you how sad I am right now,” said friend and fellow Fourth of July committee member Alex Roeser. “I’ve known Dave since I was a kid. He was there running the youth baseball program for over 25 years.”

Roeser said if there were children who couldn’t afford all the necessary equipment or participation fees, many times, Zitzloff, and his wife, Dorothy, provided funds out of their own pockets. Roeser said Zitzloff wanted to ensure every kid who wanted to had the chance to play ball.

“His involvement with youth baseball in this town is something that should never be overlooked,” Roeser said. “Dang near two generations of kids that played youth baseball in this town owe a great deal of thanks to Dave and Dorothy.Hundreds – thousands – of kids over all those years can attribute that all back to them.”

Along with running the baseball program, Zitzloff found time to serve as a member of the Delano Fire Department for many years, on the Delano City Council from 1983-1986, and the Delano Park Board in 1982, and again from 1993 to 1998. Roeser said Zitzloff was instrumental in getting the grandstand built at Central Park.

“It was a very sad day for Delano when we lost him,” Roeser said. “There will be a hole. I just hope there are a few people who will see that and step up. We don’t have many people like Dave in this town – he was one-of-a-kind.”

Also a long-time volunteer with Zitzloff, Roeser said, “Dave always had a way of putting an end to a lot of conflict, whether through humor, or just saying ‘listen, this isn’t worth fighting about.’”

McDonald said Zitzloff had a sense of gentleness about him, but had an assertive authority behind his ideas and thoughts.

“I admired him and respected him as a great leader of our community,” McDonald said. “Sometimes, a great silent leader, and at times, a very solid, outspoken leader.”

McDonald said he was looking forward to a scheduled appointment to take the Zitzloff family photograph. He recalled a night several years ago when he was at a Delano Fire Department training burn, and had the chance to have a nice conversation with Dave about his cancer, as well as the community of Delano.

“He loved the community so much that he gave his time and talent,” McDonald said. “He loved the community and the people of Delano so much that he gave of himself unselfishly – both he and Dorothy.”

“He was extremely committed to his wife,” Roeser continued. “They were truly something else. Whatever one did, the other was right behind.”

The Zitzloffs have two sons, Brad and Steve, who have followed in their father’s footsteps. Brad is part of Buffalo Fire Department, and Steve is on the Delano Fire Department.

Along with his family life, Zitzloff was also very dedicated in his professional life. He was honored by The Bosch Group for service to his community and to the company Aug. 31, 2006, in Detroit, Mich.

Zitzloff was employed by Bosch, located in Brooklyn Park, for more than 25 years. He started working at Bosch as a machinist, which he did for five years, before being promoted to machine shop supervisor.

He was a shop supervisor for another seven years, before being promoted to manufacturing manager.

Back on the home front, Zitzloff enjoyed and gave many hours to the Fourth of July celebration.

“He really, honestly believed in the Fourth of July,” Roeser said. “Not only the celebration of our country, but the money it raises and puts back into the community. They say if you want something done, call the busiest guy in town. Dave was one of those guys. He was on everybody’s list. ”

Roeser said when someone disagreed with Zitzloff, he would always have a way of making the other person feel OK about it, and work together to form a resolution.

“Dave and I disagreed about some things, and he fought hard about what he believed in, but Dave and I couldn’t have been more on the same page, even when we disagreed,” Roeser said. “Dave never focused on the problem – he focused on the resolution.”

Roeser recalled a funny story when Zitzloff resigned as vice president of the Fourth of July committee due to health concerns.

“That turkey – he resigned from vice president of the Fourth of July Committee, and nominated me (for the position) in the same sentence.”

Roeser said Zitzloff told him more than once that young people need to become involved in the Fourth of July Committee, to keep it going and keep it growing.

Much like Zitzloff’s belief in the Fourth, and wanting it to succeed, he held the same standards for his own life.

“Six years ago, they gave him six months,” Roeser said. “He was bound and determined not to let it get him. He was going to do everything in his power to stick around as long as he could.”

After his diagnosis, Zitzloff stayed involved with the fire department, the Fourth of July Committee, the athletic club, and many other things.

“Making a fire call to see if he could help out somebody that was in need – even though he was in need – it says a lot about a guy,” Roeser said. “He put his problems second and put the community first – that takes a special person to do that.”

A special person to many throughout the community of Delano. A person who gave until he could give no more.

“He never complained, and he always asked how the other person was doing,” said Jeanie Pilarski of Delano. “He never put emphasis on himself.”

“Dave’s been here all his life, and had a whole lifetime to give of himself, and he did it well,” McDonald said.

A lifetime, that many will agree, was cut way too short.