John Ross Zurbrick

  • Born: April 21, 1935
  • Died: March 13, 2020
  • Location: Peoria, Arizona

Tribute & Message From The Family

John R. Zurbrick

Man of Science, Beloved Husband, Father and Grandfather

John Ross Zurbrick, 84, of Peoria, Arizona - a devoted husband, father and grandfather - passed away peacefully on March 13, 2020 after a brief illness. John was born on Easter Sunday April 21,1935 in Detroit, Michigan, the second child of John William Zurbrick of Detroit and Aileen Ross Barker, a native of Toronto, Canada.

John was an exceptionally bright student in his youth with an early interest in electronics and technology, graduating valedictorian from high school. He greatly enjoyed the Boy Scouts, achieving the designation of Eagle Scout at 15 years of age. He went on to study Chemical Engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit. He was the 1958 recipient of the prestigious Howard A. Donnelly Award for outstanding contributions to Wayne State in leadership and service while maintaining high scholarship. Participating in many groups, John was President of the engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi, and highly active in the national leadership organization ODK (Omicron Delta Kappa), the Mackenzie Union and his local fraternity. Writing was his second passion in college where John served as editor-in-chief of two publications, Die Cast Engineer and the University's The Wayne Engineer.

While at Wayne State, John met his beloved wife Eleanor S. Meeks (daughter of Willis and Grace Meeks) on a blind date. After dating through college, they married on August 29, 1959 in Detroit. They recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.

After graduating, John fulfilled his military service requirement in the Air Force Reserves at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. While he was offered a position from McGraw-Hill Publishing company in New York City, John's first love was engineering. He began his career at Dow Chemical company in Midland, Michigan as an engineer, researching advanced composite materials. He then took a position at Avco Space Corporation in Lowell, MA in 1964 where he became nationally recognized for his work in Non-Destructive Testing of the Apollo Command Module heat shields. His work ensured the heat shield had no flaws that would lead to failures upon re-entry into the atmosphere. He held patents and presented papers on this topic, including at Expo '67 in Montreal.

When the Apollo program wound down, John went to work at GE Aircraft Engines in Evendale, OH, continuing his work in Non-Destructive Testing and later branching out into Precision Machining and Robotics Engineering. Notable patents granted to him at this time include an energy reflection flaw detection system, and a tool touch probe system for precision machining. He also invented a device to inspect Naval ship cannons for hidden cracks.

John's hobbies included flying model airplanes, drones and anything relating to the NASA Space Program, cutting-edge science and technology. He could fix anything and was a creative inventor. You would often find him in his basement workshop among computers, oscilloscopes and other gadgets as far back as the 1960s. A favorite item that hung in his workshop was a portrait of Albert Einstein with the quote, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." He took that to heart when, in his workshop, he invented his own personal computer and operating system.

He included his daughters in his hobbies. He took them to Air Shows to see the U.S. Navy fighter jets; he took them on camping trips, scenic hikes and rock collecting. He helped them practice throwing a softball or using a chemistry set; he built doll houses and models with them, and patiently taught them to swim at the local YMCA. He always encouraged his children and grandchildren to follow their dreams and embrace life's possibilities. After retiring in Arizona, his admiration turned from Einstein to John Wayne, the Hollywood movie legend, and all that he represented.

John will be fondly remembered for his animated stories, quirky sense of humor and corny "Dad jokes" as well as his "Waste not, Want not" motto . He counted the number of his "orbits on Spaceship Earth around the Sun" instead of birthdays. Most importantly, John was man who lived with great integrity and strong character. He carried the Boy Scout Oath in his wallet and committed to living the Scout Law throughout his life. He also took pride in serving as a church deacon wherever he lived.

John is survived by his wife Eleanor and their three daughters: Linda Zurbrick O'Halloran (Sean) of Dublin, Ireland; Brenda Schmidt (Dave) of Phoenix, AZ and Andrea Zurbrick of Phoenix. Also surviving are his five grandchildren: Sean J. O'Halloran (Mica) of New York City; Conor M. O'Halloran of Dublin, Ireland; Abby Woerhle Rice (Patrick) of Seattle, WA; Madison Schmidt and Cole Schmidt of Phoenix.

John worked tirelessly for his family and he will be sorely missed.