With Frank Zolar what you see is what you got.
Frank, a longtime official and member of the North Olmsted Democrat Club in North Olmsted, devoted husband and father and supporter of the city in general, left us physically last week at the age of 94.
But for those of us who regarded Frank with affection − and there are a lot of us − he’ll be with us in spirit and other ways for many years. In addition to his aforementioned attributes, he was a proud World War II veteran of the famed infantry division the “Big Red One,” one of the units that led the way in serving notice to Adolph Hitler and his thugs that they weren’t going to run roughshod over the rest of the world without the United States having something to say about it. Frank was proud of his American heritage and of being from West Virginia.
A native of West Virginia, Frank typified the fierce patriotism you often see in people from the Mountain State, while also exemplifying what the Big Red One stood for in many ways.
If he thought someone was being a bully or dishonest politically or personally, he would let that person and other people know it, and that he didn’t think they should be doing whatever they were doing to draw his ire. Usually in no uncertain terms, either.
In my role as associate editor for this publication, Frank often would give me his letters and opinions for possible publication in the paper. More than once, I had to tell him that journalistic and editorial page standards required some changes in how he had voiced those opinions. Despite that, Frank and myself maintained through the years the strong rapport we had struck up fairly quickly when we first met. He was delighted that I had started my career in West Virginia and even more pleased when we found that a relative of his had been one of my best sources and favorite people in the West Virginia State Police. Not surprisingly, that officer was consistently candid and good company − just like Frank.
Whether I saw Frank in his frequent seat at City Council meetings, in the grocery store or somewhere else in the area, we could talk about politics, a history book, family or something about the community. Whenever I heard the lead-in, “Now Jeff,” in Frank’s distinctive twang, I knew we were in for a good conversation.
Getting to interview him during a lunch together and do the story that Frank had finally gotten one of the honor flights given to veterans to see war memorials and monuments in Washington, D.C., is one of my favorite professional memories.
Other people relate similar experiences when talking about Frank.
Dean McKay, the longest-serving city councilman in North Olmsted history with about a quarter of a century in office before he retired, said he couldn’t talk at first when he found out Frank had passed.
“It was tough, we’ve been close friends for a long time,” McKay said. “He was so honest, straight-forward and such a man of integrity. Frank would let you know exactly what was on his mind. But you also could talk to him about other things, whether it was his garden, or something with our families. That was Frank, he just cared about people and the community.”
Ron Tallon, a former North Olmsted city councilman and longtime city and council leader in Democratic circles, recalls meeting Frank at the North Olmsted Democratic Club in the 1970s.
“He was a patriot. A rock, a fixture in the club and the city,” Tallon said. “He would always say what he thought. But he took care of little things, too, like bringing the coffee or something else that was needed. He also would be at the tent during Homecoming activities; we would often have to tell him to take a break. But you could also laugh with him about stuff, whether he was teasing his wife or he was just saying he was just a little old country guy.”
Even as a fervent member of the Democratic party, Frank still draws praise from a Republican. John Lasko, the current president of the North Olmsted Board of Education, lauded Frank.
“All of the members of the board were saddened to learn of Mr. Zolar’s passing,” Lasko said. “He genuinely was devoted to his family, his country and his community. As a fellow parishioner of St. Richard Church, I also know that he was devoted to his faith community as well.”
Frank’s neighbor Jacquie Hamlin fondly recalled him.
“He had opinions that ran deep, and a caring for his fellow man that ran deeper,” she said. ” He was loyal to his country and his God, a World War II vet who was modest and self-effacing. When I lost my husband he would come and knock on the door, sometimes with his cane, to make sure I was OK. I’d make him lunch or send him a sandwich home.”
In West Virginia, when someone passes, it’s said they’ll see you on the other side.
For all of us who knew Frank, we’ll look forward to that time.