Biography of Kenneth John Zill

Autobiography and Biography of Kenneth John Zill

My Autobiography

By Kenneth John Zill


                I was born June 11, 1930 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  My father was a butcher at the time, in fact, he is still pursuing that trade.  My mother was a teacher who gave up her occupation to rear a family.  I am third in a family of four boys.  My brother Edwin was born in 1925, Marcus in 1927 and Richard in 1934.

                I first went to school in the Ann Arbor Public Schools when I was five years old.  I was enrolled in Mack Elementary School.  After completing the sixth grade I was promoted to Slauson Junior High School.  My first venture in business was between the ages of 11 and 14 while I was delivering papers for the Ann Arbor News.  Ann Arbor Senior High School followed.  In my three years at high school I participated in football as offensive end and defensive tackle and as a center in basketball and once in awhile in dramatics.

                During my time in senior high school I was employed at a grocery store after school hours to help defray school expenses.  After graduation I went to work full time for a year in order to get enough money to attend college.

                I have attended St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, (Missouri Synod), all my life.  I was confirmed in 1944.  I was an active member in the Junior and Senior Walther Leagues.  I played softball on our church team for five years at catcher’s position.

                In the fall of 1949 I enrolled at Michigan State Normal College, where I am still a student.  I took a year of Business Administration and was a member of the Freshman Football Team.  I supplemented my income then, as I do now, by working at Clague’s Grocery in Ann Arbor.  This part time work included weekends, holidays and summers.

                Then the Korean War broke out and the draft was started again.  In January 1951 I was inducted by Draft Board 85, Ann Arbor and sent to Fort Sheridan, Illinois.  From there I went to receive basic training with the 45th Infantry Division at Camp Polk, Louisiana.  After four months of intensive basic training I was given a twenty day furlough.  Upon completion of this furlough I reported to Camp Stoneman, California for shipment overseas.  After fourteen days on the bounding main we arrived in Otaru, Japan.  There I was stationed near a village called Chitose for about six months.  There I received intensive combat infantry training, most of it spent in the mountains of Hokkaido.

                In December of 1951 our division was alerted for duty in Korea.  We were to relieve the battle weary 1st Cavalry Division.  We arrived on the front December 16, 1951 on a bitter cold night.  We were assigned to the Chorwon sector, which was in central Korea about 20 miles north of the 38th parallel.  After spending nine months in Korea we were sent back to the rear in August 1952 to sail home.  We left Inchon, Korea on a ferry and transferred to a troop carrier at Sasebo Japan.  We passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on September 9th, 1952.

                After a quick plane trip across the nation we arrived at Fort Custer, Michigan and were given 30 day passes.  I arrived home with the rank of corporal wearing the Combat Infantry Badge, Korean Service Ribbon, with two Battle Stars, U.N. Medal, Japanese Occupation, Rhee Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation and the Purple Heart.

                Upon being released from active duty in October, 1952, I returned to work at the grocery store where I was formerly employed.  In January 1953 I re-enrolled at Michigan State Normal College to pursue my education under the G.I. Bill.  I was taking mainly mathematics and chemistry with maybe an eye toward future engineering.  But teaching appeared more what I wanted, where I could study math and chemistry and teach to others the subjects I liked.

                In the summer of 1953 on June 20, I was married to Rosalie Nash, who had just graduated from Michigan State College.  She is now employed by the Ann Arbor Public School system to teach fourth grade at the Otto W. Haisely School in Ann Arbor.

                As far as family education, my father completed the sixth grade and my mother was graduated from Normal College in North Dakota.  My eldest brother is now attending the University of Michigan part time.  He works for Argus Cameras, Incorporated.  They are financing his study of math.  The second oldest brother is a Lutheran minister in South Sioux City, Nebraska.  He completed six years of college.  My younger brother is in the United States Air Force stationed near Tokyo, Japan.  He is an Airman, First Class, a radar specialist.  He was enrolled at Michigan State Normal College before entering the service.

                My main interests are spectator sports.  I own a boat and enjoy fishing often.  A light reader, I enjoy reading novels, and light humorous articles.  I like to travel.  I’ve been in every state east of the Mississippi, excluding New England.  I’ve traveled in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wyoming, South Dakota and California.  I’ve also traveled to Canada and Japan.

                One of the most memorable and happy days of my life was when I was discharged.  I was eager to plan my career, settle down and get married.

                Today I am a young man of twenty five, a veteran, with nearly three and a half years of college behind me.  My wife and I are active in our church, members of the Young Married’s Club.  I have been treasurer of the Sunday School since early 1954.  Together we are working to plan and provide a happy, secure future for the large family we expect to raise, with God’s help.

  Continued Biography of Kenneth John Zill


Ken and Rosalie had two children; Kenneth John (Kip) Zill II born in 1956 and Mary Elizabeth (Liz) Zill born in 1959.


Ken’s employment history after college was:

Jackson Public Schools 1956-57

General Electric 1957-1959 (Syracuse, NY)

The Bendix Corporation 1959-1984

Dynapath Systems Inc 1984-1986

Horiba Instruments Inc 1986-1988


He also taught computer programming at Henry Ford Community College and Washtenaw Community College.

He died on 4/14/1991 of congestive heart failure.  Rosalie followed him in death on 4/14/2011.  Twenty years to the day (possibly the hour).  I was told she died with her hands folded and a smile on her face.  I like to think that she smiled the moment she was reunited with her sweetheart Kenny once again.

Kip resides in CT with his wife, Vika, and their two children; Alexander and Anna Marie.

Liz and her husband, Loren, live in WA.  They have two children, Alissa who also lives in WA with her husband, Jason and their son Thomas John.  Ken resides in WA with his wife, Alex.



Ken and Rosalie are buried side by side in a small cemetery in Hamburg Township just down the road from the pastures that they hung out in in May 1951 when Ken was home on furlough right before being shipped out to Japan. Thank you to my dear sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Jill and Rob Lemon for taking this picture and visiting their grave site when I can't get there.
Thank you Dad for your service and thank you to the kind soul who puts a flag on your grave every year.
Though my son, Kenneth Dale, was only two was his Grandpa died, he feels a deep connection to him. He had this tattooed on his arm. It is for him and his sister, Alissa, that I have put these letters here for them to read.
This is one of my favorite pictures with my dad.
My mom cut down one of my dad's army shirts for my brother to play in. Of course I wanted to play army too! Here I am a proud soldier with my friend and neighbor, Jimmy.

Copyright © 2013 Mary Elizabeth Zill VandenBerghe 09.07.2022 22:16

If your related to Celia Gearhart Nash 1913-1988. Please contact me. I have a self-published book of poems written by her titled the View From My Window

Lyn 03.05.2015 00:26

I'm just finally getting around to reading everything, Liz.

Just FYI. My Dad, Marcus was born in 1927, not 1926.

Trynette Brander 29.12.2014 06:33

Hello Liz, I was doing a search of your name. Just found old guest book.I babysat Kenny and Alissa when you lived in Kirkland. Met your parents 11-26-89.

Liz 29.12.2014 16:39

Trynette, I was so excited to see your comment! Please email me at so we can get caught up! I have tried searching your name as well! Liz

Smitty 23.08.2014 23:00

A great job Liz. I know this took a lot of time.

Dana Moodey 22.11.2013 00:55

Liz ~ Thank you so much for sharing this very moving personal story. Just started reading. What an incredible man and family- how am I not surprised.

alicia cook 13.07.2013 18:35

love this, tears at the end. Thanks again , and keep them coming! :)

Kathleen Henry 07.07.2013 06:00

Great job Liz

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Latest comments

04.10 | 19:01

Of course, thank you for asking! Would love to see what you write if you can share when you are done.

04.10 | 18:39

I'm writing a book on Christmas in Wartime. Would it be ok to use a couple of comments in your dad's letters related to Christmas in the book? Many thanks!

09.07 | 22:16

If your related to Celia Gearhart Nash 1913-1988. Please contact me. I have a self-published book of poems written by her titled the View From My Window

05.09 | 07:05

I found this article really interesting and gonna share its link with my sister before taking