Robert J. Zimmermann Sr., 89, of 3304 Monroe St., died peacefully at home at 12:46 Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011.
He was born Sept. 1, 1921, in Milwaukee, WI, to Joseph A. and Rita (Carey) Zimmermann.
Mr. Zimmermann moved with his family as a boy to Oak Park, IL, and graduated from Fenwick High School in 1939. Graduating from the University of Dayton with a degree in chemical engineering, Robert entered active duty in the U.S. Army in 1943 and married the love of his life, Geraldine McNichols, in June of 1944, before leaving for Germany. He served as a 1st lieutenant in the Counter-Intelligence Corps in the European Theater.
Upon his return from World War II, he and his family moved to LaPorte in 1948 to purchase the former Johnson’s Paint Store on Jefferson Avenue and renamed it Zimmermann Paint and Glass Co., and later added Guardian Auto Glass Service Inc. Robert and his wife operated their businesses for nearly 30 years in LaPorte. Robert was active in may civic organizations and was named the Outstanding Young Man of the Year by the LaPorte Jaycees in 1953. He and a group of men were responsible for bringing the 1956 National Waterskiing Championships to LaPorte, which were successfully held on Stone Lake. He also joined the LaPorte Little theater with his wife Gerree, where he directed and acted in numerous plays and musicals.
In the 1960s he served two terms as a city councilman under Mayor Thomas Boyd and ran for mayor of LaPorte in 1971, losing to Dennis Smith by a narrow margin. He later went on to serve Mayor A.J. Rumely Jr. as City Development Director and City Engineer. Robert was also a past faculty member of LaLumiere School, teaching chemistry and directing the men’s chorus for first Headmaster James R. Moore. Robert was also a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion and a past member of Knights of Columbus. In 2004 Robert founded the Land of Lakes Art Alliance, an organization for fine artists of all levels to share their talents with the community. In his retirement, Robert enjoyed painting and connecting with other artists, spending time with his wife Gerree and their family, singing, traveling, gardening, and playing bridge. He appeared in the holiday classic film “Prancer” in the role of Mr. Wagnall. He was proud of his Screen Actors Guild membership.
He leaves behind daughters Kathryn McNichols (Kitty Murphy) of Santa Clara, CA, Judith (Richard) Magenis of Sheffield, MA, and Laura (Mark) Krentz of LaPorte; and sons Robert Jr. of San Francisco, CA, and Peter (Deirdre) Zimmermann of Hollis, NH. Robert is grandfather to Morgen Kessler Burdick and Xavier Kessler, Bridget Magenis McCullough, Meghan Magenis Baden, John-Paul Magenis, Katie, Amanda and Emily Krentz, and Aidan Zimmermann. He also leaves behind four great-grandchildren.
Robert was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Gerree, in August 2010; his daughter Virginia (Ginna) Zimmermann Johnson; his parents, and sister Rita Wagner.
A funeral Mass will be held at St. Peter Catholic Church, LaPorte, at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, with Rev Joseph Angotti officiating. Visitation will be Saturday at the church from 10 to 11 a.m. Military honors will be held at the church following the Mass. Essling Funeral Home, LaPorte, is handling arrangements.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Land of Lakes Art Alliance, P.O. Box 898, LaPorte, IN 46350.
Messages of condolence may be posted below on WNLP, as well as at www.esslingfuneralhome.com.