McAuley Alumnae Blog

McAuley High School, Toledo, Ohio

Father of Rita ’72 and Julie Zeller ’76 passed away

Posted by mcauleyhighschool on October 22, 2015

Robert Zeller(1923 – 2015)

(News story) Robert Zeller, who served as a radio operator and bombardier for 18 missions over Germany during World War II before becoming an IBM engineer, died Saturday at The Lakes of Monclova. He was 92.

His daughter, Julie Coletta, said he died from multiple organ failure.

Mr. Zeller remained sharp in intellect, and lived independently until March, Ms. Coletta said.

“He was just a personable, gentle, happy soul,” she said.

Mr. Zeller was born Feb. 10, 1923, to Leo and Ethel Zeller in Toledo. His loved ones said growing up in the era of the Great Depression instilled in him a sense of thrift and family.

He graduated from Macomber High School in 1941, and the next year joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. By enlisting, he was able to serve the country he loved and pursue his interest in airplanes, Ms. Coletta said.

After repeated flights in the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Mr. Zeller’s plane was shot down in November, 1944, and crashed in a French farm field. He suffered several serious injuries, including a broken neck, and recovered for a year in the hospital.

About six years ago, Mr. Zeller was profiled for an hour-long online film regarding recollections from the war. In the documentary, Flying High, he discussed his military training and missions.

Mr. Zeller described the sounds of the B-24’s engines and wind gusts whipping through the plane while the crew flew at up to about 25,000 feet.

He still clearly remembered the explosion of shells in the air.

“When they’re real close, it’s like someone’s throwing pebbles at the aluminum,” he said.

He was awarded several medals for his service, including a Purple Heart. He was later a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Upon returning from the war, he married Antoinette Zeller in October, 1945. They were married 65 years until her death in 2010.

He worked for IBM for 32 years as a senior customer engineer, retiring in 1982.

Surviving are his sons, Robert and Gregory; daughters, Julie Coletta and Rita Fournier; sister, Rose Taylor; eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be 2 to 8 p.m. today at Coyle Funeral Home where a Scripture service will begin at 7 p.m. The funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.

The family suggests tributes to VFW Post 6170 in Perrysburg or the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Pooler, Ga.

This story was written by Blade Staff Writer Ryan Dunn. Contact him at:, 419-724-6095, or on Twitter @rdunnblade.

Funeral Home

Coyle Funeral Home
1770 S Reynolds Rd Toledo, OH 43614
(419) 865-1295

Published in Toledo Blade on Oct. 21, 2015

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