Coping with Grief
We would like to offer our sincere support to anyone coping with grief. Enter your email below for our complimentary daily grief messages. Messages run for up to one year and you can stop at any time. Your email will not be used for any other purpose.
Lakewood, Washington - Gary Edward Zanuzoski passed away unexpectedly at home on Tuesday, September 5, 2023 due to pulmonary heart disease.
Gary's story begins in Lakewood, Washington. He was born to Edward and Dorothy Engoe Zanuzoksi. The Engoe and Zanuzoski families established deep roots in Tacoma's south end
beginning in the early 1900s.
Gary acquired his strong work ethic from his father nicknamed 'Fast Eddie", as well as his grandfather Herbert. Gary would often share the story of how his ambitious father would
deliver newspapers early in the morning, before putting in a busy day as a meat cutter at South Tacoma's Open Meat Market, then leave his apron behind and head to the local
ballpark to sell bags of peanuts to fans in the stands.
In the late 1930s, Gary's father purchased a large piece of land in Lakewood from the Cammarano family, which had a log cabin on the shores of Lake Steilacoom that remains
today and has been home to numerous persons through the years. Gary's father and grandfather, Herbert Engoe, cleared the land and with hammer and saw, they both proudly
built the family homestead where Gary grew up with his brother Allen and loyal German Shepherds, Flash and Sarge. In later years, during various home projects, Gary often joked,
"Nothing is level in this house because Dad and Grandpa probably had 'happy hour' before working on it."
In 1989, after his father's passing, the 1940s craftsman-style homestead was remodeled, and provided the opportunity for Gary to once again live in the same home where he grew
up. Gary, Francie and Joleen held many family gatherings, celebrations, and memorable events through the years that reunited the family and brought joy. However, if any
happened to fall on an important football, baseball, basketball, or golf game day, the only place you would find Gary was in front of the TV in the family room.
All avid sports fans were more than welcome to join him. He loved sports and would talk endlessly about teams, players, various statistics, rankings --- you name it. His blood might
have been red, but at times it seemed to also run Seahawk blue-green, Husky purple-gold, Mariner blue-white -- and even Syracuse orange-blue --- his beloved daughter Joleen's Alma
In 1984, Gary's mother and father-in-law, Joseph and Frances Gilletti, bought a plot on the Zanuzoski homestead and built a home next door to Francie and Gary. When Joe passed
away, Frances did not like living alone after 62 years of marriage. She soon moved in with Gary and Francie, became the self- appointed head of a household, in the style of old time
Italian "Mama Mia".
Anyone who has ever lived in a multigenerational family knows about the challenging dynamics. Nonetheless, Gary gamely accepted all the various demands during the 12 years
Mom lived with us, especially her last four years when dementia set in. Throughout it all, he often stoically commented, "Accept the cards your dealt in life", and injected humor into
the situation, which was not only a testament to his formidable grit and stamina, but also his commitment and love for family.
One characteristic unique to those with dementia is that they have a tendency to throw things away when no one is around. Gary would always like to jest, "Around our house if it
isn't bolted down, Mom's tossed it away".
Gary attended Park Lodge Elementary and graduated from Clover Park High School in 1960, where he excelled in baseball and basketball in regional leagues and teams. He was proud of
his class teammate and friend Cap Peterson, who made it to the big leagues in baseball and enjoyed sharing stories of the "good ole days". He was a passionate and fierce competitor
who dreamed of being a pro ball player, but conceded, "I just didn't have the speed". In later years he took up golf and enjoyed playing with his buddies. A highlight of his golf
playing days was when he hit a hole-in-one on two occasions at the Oakbrook course, on the 4th and 16th holes in 1998, and again in 2000.
Gary's love of music also ignited a passion for performing. In his teen years, his father bought him a set of Ludwig drums, and soon after the beats and rhythms of 50's and 60's
Rock-n-Roll tunes filled the home. After graduating high school, he began playing "gigs" at local events and town halls, in popular spots, such as the Amory in Tacoma, Eagles, and the
infamous Evergreen Ballroom in Olympia. He formed a rock band called the "Impacts" and would also join other groups, such as the Iconic "Corvettes", with legendary "Big George
Barner". While in the Army in Germany, he played on weekends in local pubs for fun. He was known as "Mr. Entertainer" for his unique drumming style and the unlimited energy he
put into playing, coupled with with his robust laugh, crazy jokes, and that broad smile that lit up a room, which was classic Gary style.
He continued to love and enjoy "the Oldies and Goodies," music right up to his last days. Through the years, it was not uncommon to hear him, as soon as he rounded the corner, a
block away, on his way home from work, with radio or cassette, blasting at full volume, singing a Little Richard Tune "Good Golly Miss Molly" or belting out Chuck Berry's
'Maybelline Why Can't You Be True". Just this summer, I recall hearing him "singing along to Aretha Franklin's 'RESPECT, "All I need is a little respect." He was eighty- one years old, yet
still youthful at heart with music in his soul!
Gary enlisted in the U.S. Army, completed basic training at Fort Ord, and later deployed to Oberammergau, Germany. Gary often remarked that he was lucky to have been assigned to
such a beautiful town with its ever-present bratwurst, Brotchen bread rolls, German beer, and local festivals. He left his mark by playing in local pubs, and spreading his smiles, laughs
and joy. He treasured his army memories, especially his lifelong friendship with 'BT' Brian Wiswell of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, and his wife, Peggy. In 2015, a highlight for Gary and Francie
was reuniting with his army buddies in Brian and Peggy's hometown.
Following his return from military service, Gary worked nights at the Tacoma Elks Lodge #174 tending bar, while also attending the University of Puget Sound studying Business
Administration. It was the Elk's club where he met Francie Gilletti, also employed there, and who also attended the University of Puget Sound. The charismatic bartender with the huge
smile and charming personality won her heart. They both graduated in June 1972, and were married on August 26, 1972, at South Tacoma's Visitation Parish. In so doing, Gary became
part of a large Italian family. One of the highlights of their wedding was father- in-law, Joe Gilletti, making 100 lbs. of Italian sausage for the wedding reception. Gary looked forward to
Joe's annual sausage making during the holidays, and for many years thereafter, the annual tradition was carried on by a variety of family members in his honor. Put a plate of sausage,
bread, wine, and a few beers, with the game of the day in front of Gary and he was a happy man. He was also very proud of his Polish heritage and would never pass up an occasion to
toast a hearty "Nostrovia" and with a gleam in his eye heartedly say," This one’s for you Mom and Dad."
After graduating from college, Gary began working for the accounting firm of Martinson Cobean and Oldham in Federal Way, where he developed expertise and experience
managing numerous local restaurant and bar accounts. In so doing, he eventually declared, "I want to be my own boss, and run a business, I can do this," and spread the word around
town that he was looking for a neighborhood pub. Well-known restaurant and bar realtor, Ed Punchak, called Gary and informed him that the Mountain Tavern, at the intersection of
56th and Pacific was for sale. The rest is history. He ditched his coat and tie and spent the next 38 years owning and operating the Mountain Pub and Grub, "The Cheers " of the south
end, where everyone knew your name. Gary was affectionately called the "Z Man". His signature apparel was jeans, long sleeved Polo shirts with a pocket for his glasses, tennis
shoes, and the Mountain Tavern cap or the sport team of the week cap. Not a tuxedo type of guy, but he would still rise to the occasion when necessary. For example, he was an
especially happy and proud father when he got to hit the dance floor once again (in his Tux) for the father-daughter dance at Joleen's wedding and sing Smokey Robinson's, "My Girl!".
Joleen knew the way to her Dad’s heart: “Pie”, and her signature apple pie, baked with love, was one his favorites, and he'd savor every bite with that grin that said it all.
In 1991, Gary contracted Legionnaires Disease, a severe lung infection, and was on life support at St. Claire Hospital in Lakewood for 35 days. The doctors had exhausted all
available medical treatment options. They informed the family there was little hope for recovery —a difficult decision needed to be made on whether to withdraw life support.
Each morning at Joleen’s school, St. Frances Cabrini, the students and staff would start their day by saying prayers, including Joleen’s father, praying for his recovery.
The family decided to remain on life support, and within the next week, Gary woke up and came home within a few weeks, the day before Thanksgiving. The doctors and nurses
applauded as he was wheeled to the car. The doctor said to Gary, ‘It a miracle you're heading home.” Yes indeed it was. We had a running joke between us. At times when there
was a disagreement or differences of opinion, I would animatedly say,” Remember, I could have requested they pull the plug.”
The Mountain Tavern was established just after prohibition in the early 1930s and soon became a reliable, welcome, gathering spot where many lifelong friendships were created,
celebrations, and birthdays hosted, including son-in-law Kelan’s 30th, as well as numerous memories and never-ending stories, until Covid, along with Gary's health issues, caused its
doors to close in 2020, never to reopen. Thereafter, he would frequently encounter old customers or receive calls urging him to reopen. But it wasn't meant to be. In spite of that,
Gary continued to value the friends and acquaintances he made over the years, and would still offer a sympathetic ear, tell a joke or two, provide VERY strong opinions on politics or
the world's situation and just plain "make you feel good". He also found tremendous satisfaction in a variety of charitable functions from helping a needy buddy, sponsoring
various leagues in Pierce County, supporting the Rescue Mission, to aiding wounded veterans.
The Mountain's claim to fame wasn't only that it was a welcoming place to go for a drink, tell tall stories, share life's ups and downs to anyone who would listen, play a game of pool,
darts, or punch boards. It was also well known for having, "the best Chicken and Joes in town", which people would travel great distances to enjoy. Gary spent months in the
beginning years perfecting the recipe for the chicken breading along with Suzi, his right hand and left hand, 38 year dedicated, loyal employee who handled his daily operations and on
many occasions the whole show. They finally settled on the recipe with a special blend of spices --- and customers enjoyed and raved about the chicken for years. They also had a
signature dipping sauce, affectionately known as the 'D-n-D", named after a loyal customer. Gary's remarkable work ethic and dedication motivated him to work long hours every day,
to provide a livelihood for his employees, friends, and family.
Gary also wanted to instill a hard work ethic in his daughter Joleen and, at an early age, would give her the assignment of counting every punched hole on the punch boards for his
reports and pay her 25 cents a board. She wasn't a fan of the tedious work or the wages and asked for a raise.
If anyone knew Gary well, especially his loyal dear employees through the years, he'd stick duct tape on anything and everything before replacing it. This true depression-era trait was
passed on from his father. His motto was, "If it isn't broken, put duct tape on it."
He had a group of longtime friends, nicknamed "The Magnificent 7", a hard-working group of south-end restaurant and bar owners, who twice a year for 30 years would head to Reno
for March Madness playoff games and in October for the World Series. By 2019, there were just two of the original group still living, Gary and "Legendary Spud" Hansen, and this would
end up being their last trip, as Covid hit the following year, coupled with his declining health. During Gary's early "forced retirement" years he filled his time with endless yard projects,
riding his mower, headphones on and listening to the sports game of the day or his favorite music channel belting out, a few choruses of Sam & Dave's "I'm a Soul Man".
He also took on a side job as a head chauffeur transporting Rocky, a very “energetic boxer” we inherited from Joleen and Kelan, to doggie daycare for socialization. He would quip,
“Never thought I’d live to see Doggie Day Care! What a life.”
Gary looked forward to visits and videos of his lively, happy-spirited grandson Luke. His animated performances, singing, and dancing brought laughter and joy, and beaming
chuckled, ‘Luke’s got rhythm, like me.”
An Amazon truck pulling up to the house would cause him to wonder what project he might be putting together for his dear grandson Luke. He did several, but his most challenging was
putting together "The Paw Patrol Bed". It took him a week and more than a few frustration fueled choice words. Finally, upon completion he said, "This was tough, try ordering things
that don't have so many pieces --- and next time --- he emphatically added, "Buy ones that are made in the USA."
Gary and Francie had just toasted 51 years of marriage in August. During that same period of time, the home health nurses came three times per week to tend to Gary's various needs.
When he informed them of his marriage milestone, one said, "Wow, 51 years, that's remarkable, what's the secret?" And without missing a beat he said, "Well, she put up with
me," and with a big smile in a much louder tone with gusto, he said "And I put up with her." Francie chimed in, "Yes, that's what you call unconditional love."
Gary would often reference being in the last quarter of life. On Sundays, Francie would bring home communion to him, but failed to remember one Sunday. He quickly remarked with a
sheepish grin, “You better not forget, I’m expecting a lot of overtime for this.”
Gary’s journey on earth was completed on September 5th 2023 in the family homestead he was raised in and loved.
Each of us has a unique life story and journey, and we wanted to share Gary's. A story that isn't particularly unusual or extraordinary. Nonetheless, it is a story filled with strong faith,
hope, and immense love of family, it portrays a common, unassuming, hard-working, American "baby-boomer" story. The good times and hard times, fulfilled and shattered
dreams, successes, challenges, milestones, disappointments, and regrets, all filled with the human connection that is the heart and soul of life and the thread that weaves together all
In essence, Gary loved his family, honored his mother and father, his country, was a devoted, dependable, trustworthy, passionate, funny guy with music in his soul. An
appreciative man for the many blessings in life, and never took them for granted, he always said, "I'm a lucky guy!"
Thank you for the many colorful footprints you left us, and lessons learned. We all loved and appreciated you and will be smiling with all the many recollections of the love and joy you
I'm sure he's singing a few choruses of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" (Good Times Never Seemed so Good) and Frank Sinatra's "I Did It My Way".
Rest in peace Gary, reunited with family and friends and Yes, "Someday, We'll be together, YES We will." Yes, We Will. "Supremes". It is promised to us all by our heavenly father!"
He is survived by his wife Francie, beloved daughter Joleen (Kelan Potucek), grandson Luke of Seattle, brother Allen of Oregon, and many extended family members and dedicated loyal
friends in his journey of life.
The family would like to thank the team at Center Well and Signature Home Health as well as the skilled team at Birch Creek Rehabilitation Center. Each one of you exemplified
Mother Teresa's words, "Let all that you do be done in love."
Arrangement by Gaffney Funeral Home www.gaffneyfuneralhome.com.
The Memorial services to be held on Saturday, November 4, 12:00 at Calvary Cemetery Chapel, 5215 70th St W, Tacoma, WA 98467. Following services, the family invites you to a
celebration of Gary's life at Meadow Park Golf Course, Foleys on the Green in the Friends and Family Banquet Room 7108 Lakewood Dr W, Tacoma, WA at 1:00. A celebration in
Gary's style, full of laughs, story telling, and having a good time.
In lieu of flowers, Gary's family kindly suggests donations to charities he supported - Wounded Warriors, Boys and Girls Club of Tacoma, Tacoma Rescue Mission, Salvation Army,
and Visitation Food for the Poor.
"My cup overflows with your blessings" - Psalms 23:5