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Zwemke, William Junior (1932-2017)


Posted By: Paul Nagy (email)
Date: 11/14/2017 at 18:07:23

William Junior Zwemke
September 26, 1932 ~ October 9, 2017 (age 85)

In the company of family members, William Junior Zwemke, 85, passed away peacefully on Monday, October 9, 2017, at Baystate Medical Center.

The eighth of ten children, William was born on September 26, 1932, in Alta, Iowa, to William Henry and Inez (Tuttle) Zwemke. Among family members and friends, however, he was, also, known as Bill, Junior, or Zeke. An accomplished athlete, he had earned a multitude of medals and trophies in track, football, and basketball. A starting player, he became a major contributor to the very successful Alta High School basketball team. In addition, he sang bass in a barbershop quartet and worked nights and weekends at Petersonís Department Store. Tasked with candling eggs early on, he was paid ten cents for each thirty dozen eggs he processed. He, also, milked cows, picked green beans, detasseled corn, worked with his father dynamiting tree stumps and drainage ditches, and toiled on a road building crew. When he was 15, his father died. As a result, Bill felt proud that he could contribute to the family income and assume the role of father figure for his younger siblings at home.

While working several different types of jobs, he finished high school and went on to play college basketball at Iowa State University and Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa, graduating with a bachelorís degree. He worked part-time at the Buena Vista Hospital while in college and started full-time after graduating. Thus, began his career in health care, and he advanced from mopping floors, washing hospital laundry, and doing maintenance work to eventually becoming Director of General Services. He had a special knack for caring about people and made sure patients and co-workers were looked after.

Recruited to the east coast by a co-worker, Bill assumed his new duties at Franklin County Public Hospital in Greenfield, Massachusetts, eventually advancing to Administrator and COO. During his time at FCPH, he, also, attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, to complete both a Mastersí Degree in Business Administration and a Masterís in Hospital Administration. He flew home to Western Massachusetts every weekend to fulfill his duties at the hospital and reconnect with his family.

In 1976, he became the CEO/President of Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, Massachusetts. In 1984, Bill advanced to Fellowship status in the American College of Hospital Administrators, one of their most prestigious designations, and ultimately, he became a Life Fellow. Active and instrumental in making many changes at Mary Lane, he led the negotiations and eventual merger with Baystate Health Systems in 1991. In 1995, he retired from Mary Lane and devoted his time to fishing, gardening, and especially supporting the high school, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), and collegiate basketball careers of his two daughters. He, also, worked as a substitute teacher in the Ware Public School system, served on school-parent committees, and volunteered as an instructor in the Junior Achievement program in Ware schools.

As a former athlete, Bill was an avid sports fan. As a Midwestern boy, his favorite teams included the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Bears. He supported these teams in both good and bad seasons throughout his life, despite his living in Massachusetts.

Bill, truly, enjoyed his weekend home on the ocean in Gloucester, Massachusetts. He found joy in fishing, clamming, and also pulling lobster traps with his commercial license. He and his wife, Katharine, also, held countless gatherings and generously shared his catch of lobsters, clams, mussels, and fish with family, friends, and visitors from as far away as Germany and Australia. In addition, he provided special dinners for the hospital staff and Auxiliary personnel as well as appreciation dinners for the Ware Police and Fire Departments. Moreover, he enjoyed working with his hands and made many improvements in both the Gloucester and Ware properties.

In 2012, the family home in Ware burned completely to the ground and the Ware fire department and police were instrumental in saving whatever possessions possible. The home was rebuilt on the same foundation, and Bill and Katharine continued to enjoy and appreciate their life in Ware for five more years.

Predeceased by two daughters, Mara Joan Schmehl and Arla Jene Zwemke, his parents and eight siblings: Laverne and Dorothy Fagerholm; Shirley George; Beverly Lichtenberg; and Arlene, Donald, Bud, and Darrell Zwemke, Bill is survived by his wife, Katharine, his brother, Larry Zwemke, of Emmetsburg, Iowa, five children: Tera Coull (Gary), of Vassalboro, Maine, William Z. Zwemke, of Gloucester, Massachusetts, Deia Johnson, of Mesa, Arizona, Ingrid Chase (Lee), of Worcester, Massachusetts, and Donna Priddie (Gregg), of San Diego, California; his former wife, Arlene Zwemke, of Mesa, Arizona; thirteen grandchildren; and eight great grandchildren. He, especially, loved to spend time with the youngest of the grandchildren and great grandchildren and would also stop to admire babies and young children wherever he saw them in public.

A memorial service will be held November 11, 2017, at the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield. Calling hours will be from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with a private family session thereafter. During this time, a remembrance of his life and an acknowledgement of his commitment to his family, the community of Ware, and the legacy of Mary Lane Hospital will take place. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to a charity of your choice.

Kostanski Funeral Home, Greenfield, Massachusetts, 2017.


Buena Vista Obituaries maintained by Paul Nagy.
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