Brookfield man remembered

BROOKFIELD – Those who knew him well describe John Zdelar Jr. as a man devoted to his family, friends and the community he called home.

On a frigid Wednesday night at Lane Funeral Home Madasz Chapel, hundreds of people stood under the gray skies in Brookfield to say goodbye to the 50-year-old who died Friday night in a car accident.

“This is a small community and you can see how much he meant to it by the amount of people here,” brother-in-law Dave Gibson said.

Over the course of the four-hour long visitation, a line of mourners snaked around the funeral home parking lot. While a feeling of sadness and loss was expressed by those in attendance, Zdelar’s family credited the community support with helping to heal the wounds.

Zdelar’s wife, Kim, said the calling hours went on for an additional 90 minutes due to the massive outpouring of public support.

“There were people waiting for two hours in the cold,” Kim Zdelar said. “When the day began, it was just so horribly sad because we had to do a lot of private stuff. But, as the day went on and the community came out, it was hard to feel anything but proud.

“He touched so many people in so many different ways.”

The traffic accident occurred late Friday night in Sharon, Pa. Police said John Zdelar Jr.’s pickup truck was hit head-on when a vehicle driven by Corey Swartz, 18, of Sharon, jumped the median.

Swartz and his passenger Evan Gill, 17, were also killed in the tragic crash.

“It’s just such a horrible thing,” Kathy Reiser said. “I’ve known his family for a long time and it just breaks my heart.”

Among those standing in the long line to pay their respects was Brookfield resident Anthony Yassal, who said he has known the Zdelar family for decades.

“I knew John’s grandfather going all the way back to the 1930s,” Yassal said of Zdelar. “Everybody knows everybody in Brookfield and this is terrible for the community.”

Others mourning included Joanne Wantek of Beaver Township, Pa., who worked with Zdelar for 16 years at Starr Extruded Shapes Company in Canfield.

“I never met a person that would say a bad word about him,” Wantek said. “And, he never said a bad word about anybody. He always had a smile and a kind word.”

Zdelar worked as a purchasing agent for the company. The plant’s general manager, Steve Dunlap of North Jackson, Zdelar was more than an employee.

“He was a friend,” Dunlap said. “Just an even-tempered, good man … one of the best I’ve ever met.”

While Zdelar was committed to his friends, job and community, most spoke of his unyielding support of his family. Along with his wife Kim, whom he married June 27, 2009, he had three stepchildren, Paige M. Wallace, Seth G. Wallace and Evan A. Wallace.

“He was a great family man,” Paul Yassal of Brookfield said. “His father passed away a few years back and he spent a lot of time with his mom and mowed her grass every Sunday. She’ll really miss him.”

According to his wife, she knew Zdelar was well known in the community, but she was unaware just how beloved he was by people from all walks of life.

“Our family is doing pretty well and it’s because of that,” Kim Zdelar said. “I’m just in awe of all the people who cared about him. I had no idea he even knew this many people.”