John N. Zei of Washburn Wisconsin passed into Eternal Life at the age of 94 on July 19, 2021. Dr. Zei was born on November 19, 1927 in Stevens Point Wisconsin to Peter and Inez (Parker) Zei. He resided in Wisconsin for 48 years, Bellingham Washington for 38 years, returning to Wisconsin in 2013.

He was married to Ruth Ruff in 1946, and they had two beautiful children: son Daniel and daughter Janet. John, known as “Papa Jack” to his family, was a devoted father and husband and loved spending time with his family. His second marriage was with Marlene Hauger Clark, who had five children from her previous marriage: son David Clark and Daughters Vicky, Brenda, Cathy and Linda.

He never completed high school because of entering The U. S. Navy at the age of 15, he served three years during World War II, mostly aboard The USS Windsor, a large auxiliary amphibious transport. He participated in eight major invasions in the Pacific theater including: The Marshall islands, Bougainville, Hollandia, where they landed the 32nd Division from Wisconsin at Aitape New Guinea, Peleliu, Guam, the Philippine Islands and Okinawa.

Following his return home after the war, John completed the GED exams and was issued his high school diploma. He was admitted to Central State Teacher’s College in Stevens Point where he received his Bachelor of Science degree. After teaching in junior and senior high schools for a number of years, John completed his Masters and Doctorate degrees at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He served as high school principal in two different school districts, and as superintendent in a third school district, all in Wisconsin. His last Wisconsin assignment was Director of Secondary Education in the Janesville School District.

In 1975 Dr Zei accepted a position with the Bellingham Washington School District as Assistant Superintendent for the two high schools and the vocational technical institute. He was invited to serve as an adjunct professor of graduate courses in the educational administration department at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He dedicated his entire professional career to improving the quality of education and learning experiences of all age groups.

Dr. Zei further served his communities in various capacities. He was a long time member of the Rotary Club, a volunteer for the American Cancer Society and always an active member of his local Christian churches, serving in many leadership roles. He was also a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Order of the Eastern Star. He was an active member of Phi Delta Kappa(PDK), the national honorary educational Fraternity. In this capacity he conducted a professional writing workshop for educators, sponsored by PDK in Seattle Washington. Participants came from as far away as Australia, Europe, Canada and many distant states.

John was an avid outdoorsman and considered himself a connoisseur of all ice cream.

John was preceded in death by his parents, Peter and Inez (Parker) Zei, brothers Peter Jr, Paul and William, sisters Florence, June and Mary. Survivors are: Daniel Zei and his wife Karen of Washburn Wisconsin, daughter Janet and her husband Terry of Hermitage Tennessee, step son David Clark and his wife Colleen of Wauwatosa Wisconsin, step daughters Vicky Duncan and her husband Ken of Coker Creek Tennessee, Brenda Cox and her husband Troy of Mc Henry Illinois, Cathy Frey and her husband Dr. John Frey of Santa Fe New Mexico, and Linda Beyer and her husband Gerald of Myrtle Beach South Carolina. He is further survived by grandchildren Jenna Leake(Jonathan), Luke Zei(Emily), Shay Ryan - Blakeslee(Carl), Aidan Ryan and Patrick Ryan, plus twelve great grandchildren.

The Celebration of Life will held at First United Methodist Church of Wausau at 1:00 PM August 7, preceded by a Visitation at 12:00 noon, followed by a Reception at the church. A Graveside Service with Military Honor Guard at Restlawn Cemetery will follow the Reception. Pastors Jim Verkest and Dan Zei will officiate the services. The Service will be Live Streamed on The First United Methodist Church’s You Tube link which is:

In lieu of flowers, please send memorial gifts to The First United Methodist Church of Wausau, 903 Third St. Wausau WI. 54403, The Cordata Presbyterian Church, 400 Meadowbrook Ct. Bellingham WA 98226, The Herbster Community Church c/o Louis Morelli 87310 Old School Rd Herbster WI 54844, or The National World War 11 Museum 942 Magazine St. New Orleans LA 70130.

Bratley Funeral Home of Washburn, WI is assisting the family with arrangements. To view this obituary online, sign the guestbook or express online condolences, visit us at

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