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Thomas Anthony Zanella


Thomas Anthony Zanella age 78 passed away on May 24, 2023 at his home in Phoenix, Arizona.  He was diagnosed with a blood disorder a couple years ago then Parkinson’s Disease in 2022.  Tom was born on November 25, 1944 and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was adopted from St. John’s Home by Sue and Carl Zanella. He attended St. Stephen’s School and Catholic Central High School. He went on to Aquinas College and later he received his teaching certificate from Central Michigan University.  He then returned to Catholic Central High School in 1971 as a teacher along with his high school friend, Tom Zayko.  He left teaching to own and operate“The Intersection Bar” in Eastown (back in the 1970s the Intersection was the place to go for young people) later he started “Z’s Bar & Grille” in downtown Grand Rapids. In the early 1990s, he moved to Phoenix where he took some acting classes and was part of a public service anti-smoking TV ad. He returned to teaching after getting his Arizona teaching certificate and a Masters Degree in Special Education from the University of Phoenix.  The last 25+ years of his career was as a special education teacher and head of Special Education at a Phoenix high school. In retirement, he did substitute teaching even up until a week before his death. Tom treasured “friendship” which started in grade school and lasted his whole life. In high school, he was part of a group that called themselves “the Magnificent Seven” and they remained friends throughout their lives. He returned to Grand Rapids every summer to meet with friends and relatives. Most 7 am mornings, he and his friends met at “Just Breakfast” then “Wolfgang’s” and later at “Sundance” for coffee and conversation. He had a distinctive laugh and always liked a funny story or joke. He will be missed by his sister, Linda Zanella Kristensen, his niece, Maigunn Nilsen Kristensen, many cousins, friends, colleagues and two special friends in Phoenix;  Kathleen Davis and Anthony Ferraioli.

There will be a memorial mass at St. Andrew’s Cathedral on Friday June 30, 2023 at 10 am.  There will be visitation at 9 am and a luncheon after the mass in the cathedral basement. 

Until then, have a cup of coffee or a beer in his honor. Tom will be deeply missed.

(photo is in Perugia, Italy which is a sister city to Grand Rapids – taken on a 2013 trip to Italy with Anthony and his sister.)

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4 Responses

  1. They broke the mold after this guy, I met Tom back in the mid ‘80s. He use to bring in his deposits to the bank I was working at, always friendly. We all would have drinks after work at Z’s, he always gave us a free round for “his girls”. I will definitely have a drink and remember how truly kind he was!

  2. One of a kind….biĝer than life..I will truly miss the z man. Too many great stories.. (most not for publication)… he loved life.. his ture friends and his
    familia….but mostly he loved people…he had the unique ability look at this world in a different perspective and let s..t roll off his back….a game changer.. risk taker… if you were his friend… it was for life.. too many shits and giggles to mention…the big hanacana. he called me…luv ya buddy.. God bless🙌

  3. Tom was a great neighbor. He was always open to a chat and had a great sense of humor.

  4. I have known Tom since the 1970s. His great laugh will be missed. Great companion. Loved driving with him in his little green convertible. Godspeed good friend.

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