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Paul Zakel, Jr.
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Paul Carl Zakel, Jr., 91, died Saturday, May 1.

He was born in Los Molinos, the youngest child of Paul and Margaret Zakel. He had three sisters and two brothers. Even before he was a teenager, he was working at various farm and ranch jobs to help his mother support the family as his father had left to pursue work ventures in other parts of the state.

Around age 12, he went to live with his sister and brother-in-law in Alameda and stayed there long enough to graduate from grade school. He returned to Los Molinos and stayed until graduation at Los Molinos High School, having lettered in baseball, basketball and football. He loved sports and was an exceptional baseball player.

Mr. Zakel went to Stockton after graduation where he worked as a welder at Valley Steel and Welding Works, owned by his father. At this time he also played baseball on a minor league team and had a very respectable batting average.

In about 1940, he then went to work welding at Mare Island Naval Base, and after Dec. 7, 1941 he transferred to Pearl Harbor where he worked on many of the ships damaged in the attack there. While there he also attended the University of Hawaii before returning to Stockton and entering the service.

He shipped to Europe in September 1944 and became an infantryman in the 80th Division in France. He quickly advanced in rank becoming a squad leader, was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium but stayed in combat for the length of the war. He was awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. At war's end he was selected to be Sergeant of the Guard for the American contingent at the Nuremberg trials, where he stayed until January 1946.

Once home, he married the love of his life, Alvina Bitterman, and started a family. He became partners with his brother-in-law Russell Bales and they formed Bales and Zakel Plumbing in Oakdale, with his sister Virginia (Zakel) Bales running the office. He retired from the plumbing business in 1984, but never really retired. He was a volunteer fireman for the Oakdale Fire Department for 20 years.

He was quick to help anyone that he could, and was truly generous. His greatest love was his family, he was there anytime anyone needed help of any kind. He was the driving force behind all the family functions and he was happiest when all the family was together.

Survivors include his sons, Paul (Patty) Zakel III, and Stephen (Loretta) Zakel, both of Escalon; stepson, Byron (Lee) Laurence of Carmichael; five grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.

He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 60 years, Alvina; and his brothers and sisters.

There will be no services at this time. A private memorial is planned for a later date.

In lieu of flowers, remembrances may be sent to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or to the American Cancer Society.

Allen Mortuary in charge of arrangements.

The Escalon (Calif.) Times

May 12, 2010