March 13, 1934 – November 10, 2017
Ernest “Ernie” Zeller , 83, passed away, unexpectedly, November 10, 2017 at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, surrounded by his family.
Ernie was born in Germany on March 13, 1934, to Johann and Martha Zeller. In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his brother, Quido Zeller, his sister, Hilma Michael and his brother in law, Werner Branch.
On March 8, 1958, Ernie married the love of his life, Gerda Ruth Ast. They were nearing their 60th year of marriage. His wife survives. Ernie and Gerda were blessed with two sons, Richard (Deborah) Zeller and Steven (Gina) Zeller, both of Granger, IN. Also left to cherish his memory are two grandchildren, Madeline and Riley Zeller, one sister, Lora (Gerry) McLain of New Berlin WI; two brothers, Wally Zeller of Milwaukee, WI and Kurt Zeller of Phoenix, AZ; one brother in law, Gunther (Cathy) Asterlin of South Bend, IN and numerous, beloved nieces and nephews.
Ernie came to America as a refugee in 1951, at the age of 19. His family’s passage to America was sponsored by a land owner in Westin, WV who ran a farm and sawmill. Ernie lived there for nearly two years with his parents and five siblings and he and his father worked to repay that sponsorship. He also worked at a glass factory at the time, blowing glass. Both Ernie’s family and his father’s sister’s family, who had been sponsored nearby, pooled their earnings together to buy a car, which they shared. Eventually, Ernie and his father took that car north, in search of a better life for both families. They moved to Milwaukee, WI and Ernie became a Journeyman tool and die maker. This was the beginning of his more than sixty years of work in manufacturing.
After that training, Mr. Zeller joined the United States Army. He was very proud to serve America, which he frequently referred to as the “Greatest country in the world”. After his time in the service, Ernie moved to Indiana to take a position as the plant manager for Eberhard Steel Products. In his true, multi-talented form, he also took care of Mr. Eberhard’s farm, when necessary.
In 1968, with his long time business partner, Robert Klotz, Mr. Zeller had the opportunity to purchase a small company. They did so and created Metalstamp, Incorporated, a heavy gauge stamping manufacturer of which Ernie has been the president for nearly fifty years. When they started the business, Ernie said he wanted to, “Do something better than anybody else”. That is still the goal of Metalstamp, as Ernie’s two sons follow their Father’s high standards for quality and excellence, as well as his strong example of leadership.
Mr. Zeller often made reference to how thankful he was for life in America and to his gratitude for the opportunity to live the American Dream. “It’s a real thing” he would say. He firmly believed that this country provided him with opportunities he would not have had anywhere else. Ernie worked tirelessly to attain that dream for his family. He continued to work until the day before he died, proudly saying on that day, “I love to go to work”.
When not working, Ernie was an avid Notre Dame Football fan and a true outdoorsman. He enjoyed hunting, golfing and gardening. The highlight of his year was a traditional fishing trip to a remote part of Canada, with a small group of family and close friends. He was also a long time member of the Izaac Walton League.
Above all else, Ernie was an impressive man and a truly good person. His honesty and integrity have never wavered. He was fiercely loyal and was an extremely devoted husband, father, grandfather, employer and friend. Ernie was so strong, courageous and loving. He was wise, intelligent and reliable. He has served as an amazing example of how to value all that matters, how to stand by your principals with fortitude and how to live your life with dignity and with respect for all others. We have been incredibly fortunate and deeply honored to have Ernie in our lives and he is so sadly missed.
The Zeller family will hold visitation for Ernie on Wednesday, November 15th from 4-8pm at the McGann Hay Funeral Home, Granger Chapel, 13260 SR 23, enter off Cherry Road.
Funeral Services will be held on Thursday, November 16th at 11:00 am at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 51490 Laurel Road, South Bend. Burial will follow at St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Indiana Sheriff’s Association, The Mayo Clinic, or the American Diabetes Association.
To send condolences to the family, please visit: www.McGannHay.com