Theodore George Zeh, Jr. – Colonel, United States Air Force

Courtesy of his classmates, United States Military Academy

Theodore George Zeh, Jr. No.15768
Class of 1946
Died 10 June 1990 in Clinton, Maryland, aged 65 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery


Theodore George Zeh, Jr. was born on 15 January 1925 in Jamaica, Queens, New York. Known to his family and friends as Ted, he stood out early in life as an excellent student. His brother Richard recalled Ted's life before West Point: “…. His grades in school were nearly perfect, and when I entered school each teacher would ask, ‘Are you Ted Zeh's brother?' followed by ‘He was an excellent student, and I hope you will he just as good.' He was a tough act to follow, but he was always there when I needed him.” He finished grammar school, with honors, at St. Catherine of Siena and then attended Andrew Jackson High School. Missing the regimen of military discipline, Ted returned to LaSalle Military Academy to graduate as cadet colonel, at the head of the entire battalion. Following a year at Fordham University, Ted won an appointment to West Point and entered on 1 July 1943 as a member of the Class of 1946.

Cadet life was relatively easy for Ted. His previous experience at LaSalle Military Academy prepared him well. He was a “spoony” cadet. One of his roommates, Al
Wedemeyer, recalled: “Ted was a well organized student who handled most of USMA's academic challenges with relative ease. Ted worked hard to make sure he was comfortably proficient in each subject without struggling for the extra tenths that would have given him a higher academic standing. … Ted's outstanding attribute as a roommate was his constant cheerfulness even in the face of adversity. No matter what problem arose, he would be able to come up with some positive aspect of the situation… Ted's cadet life was greatly influenced by the fact that he selected Pat to be his ‘OAO' for a lifetime while he was at West Point…. During his final year at West Point, he was looking forward to graduation and his subsequent marriage to Pat.” Ted had opted for flying training when it was offered in 1945 and, upon graduation, pinned on the wings of an Army Air Corps pilot as well as his second lieutenant bars.

Graduation leave saw Ted marry Joan Patricia Drennan on 29 June 1946 at St. Albans, New York. The newlyweds traveled first to Enid Air Force Base, Oklahoma, where Ted took transition training to multi-engine aircraft. His first assignment was to Carswell Air Force Base, Texas as B-36 co-pilot with the 436th Bomb Squadron, 7th Bomb Wing. A fellow co-pilot, LTC Harry H. George, USAF, (Ret), recalled their time together at Carswell: “We were assigned to the same squadron flying 40 hour missions in B-36's. Ted, Steve Hill '46 and I were all co-pilots. The flights required five hours of pre-briefing and three hours of debriefing. This was a record at that time, spending almost two days on one flight! The current joke was that our wives would check the mail at the door with the picture on the mantel to be sure it was him. We were preparing for non-stop, non-refueled flights to the Soviet Union if it became necessary. … In 1964, Ted was most helpful to me during a period of my hospitalization. I will be forever grateful to him. Skeet and I miss Ted very much. He will always be remembered as the ‘sharp' lieutenant with the sweet and loving Pat by his side.”

In 1950, Ted became Adjutant, 436th Bomb Wing, at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas. It was then to Walker Air Force Base, New Mexico with the 6th Bomb Group. In 1953, the Zehs moved to Lake Charles AFB, Louisiana, where Ted became a B-47 aircraft commander. Next the Zehs moved to Plattsburgh AFB, New York and Ted continued as a B-47 aircraft commander. His tour with Strategic Air Command ended when Ted was selected to attend Stanford University in 1958 to get his advanced degree in industrial engineering. Following Stanford, Ted was assigned as assistant plant representative for Space and Electronics with General Dynamics Astronautics Division in San Diego, California. Moving up in his chosen field, the Zehs moved to Andrews AFB, Maryland, where Ted became chief, Quality Assurance Division, Air Force Systems Command.

With a year out to attend the Air War College, Ted next became project manager for Mobile Power for all services in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. Ted received the Legion of Merit for his work in this area. In 1970, Ted became chief, Contract Placement Division, Headquarters, Department of the Air Force. In 1975, he became director, Product and Production Engineering, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense; he kept this position until his retirement from the Air Force in the grade of colonel in 1975. He was awarded his second Legion of Merit upon retirement.

Ted's first venture into the civilian job market was as a real estate sales agent. As with everything he did, he prepared himself well and was successful by dint of hard work and dedication to his clients. However, Ted disliked not being able to spend predictable time with his family. So Ted joined the staff of a new company, RAM, and became a major force in the growth and success of that company. Ted was always receptive to new ideas and procedures; he was a good listener and helped many younger employees to advance in their careers. In 1981, Ted had the first of a series of heart attacks that required him to stop working. In April 1990, Ted underwent triple bypass surgery in an attempt to remedy his congestive heart failure. Ted died of heart failure on 10 June 1990 at Southern Maryland Hospital, Clinton, Maryland. His survivors include his beloved Pat; two daughters, Susan Hegedusich and Nancy Robinson; his brothers, Richard and Robert; his sister, Genevieve Harbowy; and one grandchild, Cassie Robinson.

There is an underlying sense of deep feeling for a very special person when remembering the life of Ted Zeh. A neighbor and friend for 26 years, LTC Helen Hendrickson, USAF Ret., wrote: “Ted Zeh was a gentleman of the old school. He was an honest and loyal man, loyal to his family, his country and his profession. Ted never did anything halfway; he said that if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well. And Ted applied this philosophy to all aspects of his life…. He was proud of his daughters and encouraged them to widen their horizons, to explore a variety of activities and develop well rounded capabilities and personalities. The day Ted pinned second lieutenant bars on his younger daughter's Air Force uniform was one of the highlights of his retirement years… Ted was a faithful, practicing Catholic; for many years he was an ecumenical minister and served on the parish council. When my mother was paralyzed, Ted would bring Holy Communion to her. He was a true friend.”

Al Wedemeyer wrote: “Ted was an unselfish individual who always was ready to pitch in and do his fair share of any work to be done.”

Ed Jernigan, an Air Force classmate, wrote: “His faithfulness and sincerity drew you to him. He was a person you could depend on to be fair, even-handed and consistent day in and day out. You knew where he stood. He treated everyone equally. Betty, my wife, and I thoroughly enjoyed knowing Ted and Pat.”

His beloved Pat remembered that, above all, Ted's best traits were integrity, loyalty and great devotion to his Catholic faith. She saw him tested over their 43 years together, and integrity was always there. He was the epitome of what a West Pointer should be. He didn't talk about Duty, Honor, Country; Ted Zeh lived his entire life by those tenets.

The Class of 1946 is proud to declare, “Well Done, Ted; Be Thou at Peace!”

'46 Memorial Article Project and his wife, Pat

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