Richard William Zeitler, husband, father, grandfather, adventurer, and spiritual sponsor to many, died on May 19, 2020. He was 81. He is survived by his wife Eileen Simonson Zeitler, their children Karen (Michael) Murphy, Kristen Bailes, Lynn (Jeffery Chernick) Zeitler, Edward Zeitler and John(Alexandra Parnass) Zeitler, 11 grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents and sons Peter, Richard and Paul.
Dick was born on July 12, 1938, in Newark, NJ, to Clayton and Mary Maurin Zeitler. After graduating from Seton Hall Prep in Newark in 1956, he immediately enlisted in the Army, serving as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division until 1959. He was the first in his family to attend college, earning his bachelor’s degree at Fordham University in 1964.
Dick began his career in risk management at the Continental Can Company in New York City in 1964, and went on to become the risk manager for Lone Star Cement in Greenwich, CT, in 1969. In 1974, his work brought him and his family west to Denver, CO, where he was the risk manager for Johns Manville. In 1976, the family settled in Wichita, KS, where he held the same role at Koch Industries until his retirement in 1991. Dick and Eileen moved to Roeland Park, KS, in 2009.
A faithful Catholic all his life, Dick’s spirituality deepened over time and he devoted much of his retirement years to lay ministry in the Roman Catholic Church. He coordinated Eucharistic Adoration chapels in both his Wichita and Roeland Park parishes. For two years, he chaired the Midwest Catholic Family Conference in Wichita. He took great joy in serving Mass and as a lector, often on a daily basis.
In 1990, he became active in Cursillo – an apostolic movement within the Church focused on Christian leadership and personal spiritual development. For nearly 30 years, Dick led weekend retreats and sponsored many friends through the program. He especially cherished his related volunteer service at the El Dorado Correctional Facility where he travelled weekly to meet with residents for prayer and fellowship.
That same year, he supported Eileen and four other women in the founding of A Better Choice, the pregnancy crisis center in Wichita. For 10 years Dick served as the board chair and “chief janitor” for the organization. He oversaw the purchase and complete renovation of the facility, a highlight of his life.
Dick was an avid outdoorsman. An Eagle Scout, he brought his enthusiasm for adventure to the Boy Scouts as an adult leader, holding a number of posts within the Quivira Council and earning the Silver Beaver Award, Scouting’s highest honor for adult leaders. He relished camping and canoeing, making five trips in the boundary waters between Minnesota and Canada. With Eileen, their children, their grandchildren, and friends, he hiked, camped, rafted, and otherwise explored many National Parks throughout the West, New England and Alaska. He never missed an opportunity to sail, whether in the British Virgin Islands, Lake Michigan, the Northeast Atlantic coast, or in the series of smaller crafts he owned in Wichita. Having learned to ski in the Army while stationed in Alaska, he shared his passion for the sport with his family and friends until 2015 at age 76.
His optimism, his joy, his warmth, live on in those fortunate enough to have known him. In lieu of flowers, the familyrequests donation be sent to “A Better Choice” 3007 E. Central Ave., Wichita, KS 67214 or www.pregnancywichita.com .
Services as follows:
On Thursday evening, May 21st , in the parking lot of St. Agnes Catholic Church, a Rosary will be prayed in Dick’s honor at 5pm. To adhere to the physical distancing regulation, the Rosary will be broadcasted across the parking lot on your FM channel 90.5. After the Rosary, the family will greet guests, in a drive-by procession, under the awning that leads to the Parish Center.
On Friday morning, May 22, a funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m., to a “Limited Seating” gathering of friends and family, face mask required. Private burial. Assistance by Funeral Advocates, LLC.