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Richard "Dick" Howard Zoller

Born: Mon., Jun. 7, 1915
Died: Fri., Nov. 28, 2014

Memorial Service

12:00 PM Sat., Jan. 10, 2015
Location: St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church


1:00 PM Mon., Jan. 12, 2015
Location: Fort Huachuca Post Cemetery

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Dick Zoller was a guest conductor for the 36th Army Band in June of 2004.
Dick Zoller was much more than a bandmaster.
Dick Zoller was a guest conductor for the 36th Army Band in June of 2004.

SIERRA VISTA — Richard Zoller — Dick to his friends — was one of a quintet of local music lovers who established the Sierra Vista Symphony Orchestra, which is now celebrating its 20th year.

The others were Rogers Bayes, who is leaving the podium at the end of this season, Zoller’s wife, Kathryn, and David and Suzanne Howdeshell,
But, here’s a tidbit about Dick that many don’t know.

The Sierra Vista Symphony he had a hand in establishing was the second community orchestra he helped form.

The first was the Fairbanks Symphony in Alaska, which was established when the state was a territory. That orchestra is nearing its 60th anniversary.

While Dick died on Nov. 28, there will be funeral for him at noon on Jan. 10 at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church. His interment will be at 11 a.m. Jan. 12 at the Old Post Cemetery on Fort Huachuca, where he will join his beloved wife of 69 years and during which military honors will be done recognizing his three decades in the Army. Almost all of which was as a bandmaster.

Bayes said plans are to remember Dick a couple of times, once at the upcoming Mark Russell benefit for the orchestra on Jan. 10 and having the symphony do something for the former bandmaster, “who loved marches,” at its Jan. 16 concert, perhaps with no one at the podium, which is named for him.

Of Dick, Bayes said after a few meetings the founders of the orchestra had, “Dick gave the group $100 and said open up a checking account.”

He then became a major financial supporter of the symphony, served as board president for many years and wrote articles about its performances for the Sierra Vista Herald, Bayes said, adding he did more than just talk about the need for a professional-quality orchestra for Sierra Vista.

“As a soft-spoken man he left an indelible impression on this community,” Bayes said.
Dick’s son, Guy, a retired Army major, said people will be surprised about the depth of his father’s life.

A child of the Depression, born in Alexandria Bay in upstate New York, along the St. Lawrence River, Dick’s father was a mechanic and boat captain and his mother was a piano player in movie theaters during the time of silent cinemas.

As a young boy he was described as a book worm aways reading, until a boyhood friend showed him there was an exciting life — playing along the river, hunting, fishing, boating and camping — beyond the covers of whatever he was reading.
The death of his father caused a financial pinch for him and his mother and two sisters.

As for his own family besides Guy, Dick and Kathryn, who retired from teaching school, have two daughters, Cathy and Marian, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren of whom eight are musicians and four are visual artists.

Graduating from high school as co-valedictorian when he was 16, eventually Dick gave up a $6 a week job, joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and was assigned to work in the mountains of Idaho and Montana for a year.

Of his $30 a month pay, he got to keep $5 and the other $25 was sent to the family for their needs.

During his second hitch with CCC he earned $10 a month more as he was elevated to chief cook.

After his second tour with the CCC, Dick returned to Alexandria Bay where he worked as a chauffeur, golf caddy, tour boat captain and any other job he could find. The St. Lawrence River area was a playground for the wealthy.

He went on to college, joined a fraternity where he earned his room and board by cooking for the group.

Dick graduated with a music management degree and took a job teaching a high school band in Boonesville, N.Y., for $100 a month.

However, in 1941, he left the teaching job, because the band students didn’t appear to be interested in music, which led him to enlist in the Army Air Force as an aircraft mechanic.

But, one day at his post, the commander announced the installation was authorized to have a band and he told Dick he would command the musical group.
It meant being discharged as an enlisted soldier, followed by a promotion to warrant officer, later to be discharged as a warrant officer to return to the enlisted grades followed by another discharge as an enlisted soldier and again returned to the warrant officer ranks until he retired, discharged as a Chief Warrant Officer 4 in 1971.

Soon after the the United States entered World War II, he was transferred to Columbus, Georgia, to lead the 3rd Armored Regiment band and eventually the unit went to England then landed in Normandy, two months after D-Day in 1944.

As part of the 10th Armored Division he and the band moved across northern France, providing music for the unit and doing other soldier duty, including as road guides ensuring convoys took the right routes, guarding prisoners, supply depots and fuel dumps and doing duffle bag duty. The latter was emotional because it entailed finding duffle bags belonging to those killed in action.

His son said, “When a town was liberated the band would assemble, unpack their instruments, march through the town playing, pack up and head for the next town to be liberated.”

Laughing he said one time the band went into a town, only to be told by some residents the German Army was still in the community, and his father and the band members made a cautious but quick withdrawal without incident returning after the town was in American hands.

Among the larger communities the 10th took Metz and Remagan, and the unit was also in Bastogne and the band was in the Battle of the Bulge.

Later, Dick was assigned to Garmisch where he was the band leader for Gen. George Patton.

Returning to the United States he was deployed to South Korea during the Korean War. After retiring, Dick and Kathryn visited Fort Huachuca where Guy was stationed, loved the area and moved to Sierra Vista.

Sue Nagle,vice president of the Sierra Vista Community Chorus said Dick was not just interested in instrumental music — his instrument was the clarinet and he played the piano as well — but also he enjoyed all aspects of musical art, to include singing and dancing.

“Dick was in the front row at our concerts,” she said. “He also wrote glowing reviews of us.”

Saying he was “one of the great guys,” Nagle added “he was truly interested in what we did.”

Longtime friend Neil Humburg said he and Dick would spend a lot of time together especially during his later years when he resided in an assisted living facility.

“He was always sharp, his mind was not impacted,” Humburg said.

His lucidity, the sharpness of his mind, his ability to talk about many issues, not only music but politics, philosophies and different authors and what their writings were about became the subjects of many discussions, Humburg said.

“I visited him the day before he died. We had a wonderful conversation.” he said.

That he died the next day was a shock to Humburg.

“Dick was a true Renaissance Man, who could hold forth on many subjects,” he said.

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greg figueroa
   Posted Tue December 30, 2014
As a member of the American Legion Riders we visited Mr. Zoller last year at Christmas and we found him to be a real joy. He was always willing to tell the stories related to his military service. He told us about his meeting of General Patton. We are sorry to hear of his passing. We went looking for him last week and were told of his passing. We were disappointed we could not visit with him. God bless and thanks to him for his service to his country at home and abroad. Greg and Pam Figueroa