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Carl Zahn

Obituary of Carl Zahn

CARL C. ZAHN On Saturday, September 5, 2020 Carl Charles Zahn after a brief illness passed away. He was 98 years old. Carl was born February 17, 1922 and raised in Irondequoit, New York. A true patriot having enlisted in October of 1942, Carl was a proud veteran. A World War II “Greatest Generation Navy Seabee” who served most of his 3 year hitch in the steamy Pacific Island jungles, first in New Guinea (September 1943-December – 1944) and then in the Philippine Islands (December 1944 – November 1945). On enlistment his civilian status as an Operating Engineer led to assignment to the 91st US Naval Construction Battalion, Company C, Platoon 2. Construction Battalions (CBs) were created by the US Navy shortly after Pearl Harbor when it became apparent that the rugged Pacific Islands and their residents had to be rescued from the entrenched Japanese Army. The US Army Corps of Engineers were fully deployed in the European theater. This second war effort in the Pacific Ocean would be largely a naval mission requiring considerable military construction forces to enable and support the ground operations of the US Marines. A new category of naval personnel was created. Enlistees with construction backgrounds were quick to embrace assignments to the new CBs, were eager to put their civilian experience to work for their country earning the nickname “Seabees” for their efficient and hard work. Carl Zahn was one of the earliest of these new warriors who US Navy Seabees of today fondly honor as ‘The Original Seabees.’ They conquered the dangerous jungles, established beachheads and landing zones, built roads, airstrips, docks and harbor facilities, hospitals, barracks, mess-hall facilities and any other needed naval installations, often under enemy attack. When the 91st CB Battalion’s initial recruitment roster was filled, the troops headed south for their basic training at Camp Peary in Virginia. Carl and his Battalion were then the first to leave that base by overnight troop train for advanced training at Camp Endicott in Rhode Island. From there travel got harder. June 15, 1943 the group left Rhode Island via train headed for Camp Parks, California. It was a seven-day trip spent entirely in day coaches, absent any sleeping accommodations, with windows immovably jammed in the open position. The fresh air was welcome until nights grew colder along the way. September of 1943 found the 91st Battalion in Port Hueneme, California boarding a troop transport ship, the U.S.A.T. ‘Sea Witch’ bound for the South Pacific. Unescorted with little to protect them from the Japanese Navy, Sea Witch slogged on through open seas for twenty-one days finally sighting land off the east coast of Australia, near the southern entrance to the Great Barrier Reef. From there it was on to Milne Bay, New Guinea to set up various construction projects made more complicated by broiling sun, sudden torrential rains that often dumped 24” in 48 hours, indigenous wildlife with questionable intent and of course, enemy forces. By May of 1944 the 91st moved on to Madang, New Guinea and then to Finschhafen, New Guinea always with the incessant heavy rains. In December 1944, on Christmas Day under the threat of enemy planes overhead Carl arrived on Manicani Island, Philippines to face a solid month of more rains, more dock building, more warehouse construction and building of barracks all under the relentless tropic heat and rain and oppositional assault. Manicani Island was to be the last stop, for it was here Carl celebrated the end of WWII. Discharge from the US Navy Construction Battalion came to him in November 1945. He returned to his roots and his family having proudly served his country in its time of need, thankful for his successful military experience and ready for civilian life. Carl Charles Zahn lost no time post-war resuming what became a great career. He immediately went to work for John B. Pike and Son as an Equipment Superintendent/IUOE Master Mechanic. He worked 38 years for that company being associated with many noteworthy projects in the Rochester area among them Midtown Plaza and the safe removal of bridges that allowed the opening of Irondequoit Bay into Lake Ontario. There were out-of-town projects in Carl’s resume too; most prominently Epcot in FL, and power plants in Oswego and Schenectady in NYS, and Cousin Island, ME. All projects presented unique challenges which he excelled in solving. He brought that same work ethic to his personal pursuits many of which were volunteer efforts; such as construction of buildings at Camp Good Days & Special Times, Keuka Lake; participating in Beaver Weekends at Massawepie in the Adirondacks, or fund raising for an Olympic athlete to name a few. Above all Carl’s center of gravity was his family. He was the respected Patriarch. A smiling, generous, wonderful Husband, Father, and “Grandpa” as he was affectionately called by all. He liked to entertain family and friends at gatherings with a harmonica by sharing his original compositions, always ending with a flourish and a twinkle in his eye. A modest man who in recent years as birthdays stacked up, had begun to quietly hope he might reach the 100-year mark. Sadly, the isolation imposed upon him by rigid Covid-19 pandemic restrictions as he rehabilitated from a hospital stay meant the absence of his family being shoulder to shoulder with him in his fight. Ultimately that robbed him from reaching his inner goal. That said the unassuming man that he was would agree the Lord had graced him with a good life. He found time to be active in many organizations to name a few: a rare 80 year membership in IUOE #158, a life member in the Irondequoit Bay Fish & Game Club; a life member in the MCB-12 (Seabees) Association; membership in the American Legion Cottreall-Warner Post 942. Predeceased by Parents Florence R. & George Zahn, first wife Elizabeth H. Zahn, Sister Adele R. Brule, Brother Frank G. Zahn, Grandson Charles S. Zahn, Daughter-in-law Mary Patricia Zahn, Parent In-laws Helen E. & Norman C. Fox, and Brother- in-law Gregory W. Fox. Left missing Carl are cherished and devoted wife of 45 years, Patricia Fox Zahn; children William C. Zahn, Gary D. Zahn, Susan J. Zahn, grandson Gregg L. Zahn, great-grandson Collin R. Zahn; many additional relatives as well as IUOE Local 158 Sisters and Brothers, fellow US Navy ‘Seabees,’ and a lifetime of friends. A military ceremonial service will be conducted at the Irondequoit Cemetery, 3671 Culver Road, Irondequoit, NY on Saturday October 10, 2020 at 11am. Face masks and social distancing will be required. In lieu of flowers the family respectfully requests that donations in Carl’s memory please be considered, either to Camp Good Days and Special Times, 1332 Pittsford-Mendon Rd, PO Box 665, Mendon, NY 14506, or to Irondequoit Bay Fish & Game Club, “Kids Conservation Camp Fund,” 658 Bay Front South, Rochester, NY 14609, or the Honor Flight Rochester Inc, PO Box 23581, Rochester, NY 14692. Thank you.
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