The Voice of the Detroit River, Frank Zuzek (1904-1981)

This is the first post of 2018 inspired by the #52Ancestors writing challenge issued by professional genealogist, Amy Crow Johnson. The challenge: once a week, for all 52 weeks of the year, write about a relative in your family tree.

So, each week I hope to share with you a photo, article, vignette, or other interesting tidbit about someone in my family tree. There is no rhyme or reason to the order in which they are presented. I will share as my interests move me.


Frank Zuzek (1904-1981)

Frank Zuzek (1904-1981), “Voice of the River”, was married to my great aunt Viola (Pawlowski) Zuzek (1906-1983). Viola was my grandmother, Claire (Pawlowski) Halvangis's (1916-1980) older sister.

I very vaguely remember Aunt Viola. I don’t have any memories of Uncle Frank. I would have been about 5 when he died.

This clipping is from the Detroit Free Press 8/17/1978 announcing his retirement from the J.W. Westcott Co. as a dispatcher on the Detroit River. As the Detroit Free Press article announcing his retirement states:

"For 58 years, Frank Zuzek was the voice of the Detroit River, a point of contact between bosses and skippers, between sailors and their families, a source of news and, when necessary, help. ... As the years passed, Zuzek witnessed both the tragedies and the wonders of night on the river."

You can read the second page of the retirement announcement below:

Frank seems like the kind of guy who has some stories to tell. I would have loved to share a coffee or beer with him and hear what he had to say about life on the Detroit River.

Frank died in 1981, a few years after his retirement. Here is his obituary in the Detroit Free Press:

It is hard to read the following quote from his obituary and not want to know the man:

"Listeners always sat spellbound when Frank Zuzek recounted the tales of the Great Lakes freighters on the Detroit River. No one was better qualified to tell the stories."

Frank seemed like a sweet man. His penchant for stories seems right up my alley too. And he really loved his job.

You’re always learning something all the time . . . I like to see the sun come up in the morning — a lot of people never see that.
— Frank Zuzek (1904-1981)