Frank Willard Zurn Obituary – Erie Times-News


Frank Willard Zurn was born in Erie, January 18, 1927. Born in a snow storm and barely making it to the hospital for delivery, his mother claimed she still had her galoshes on and that he was vaccinated with a phonograph needle. Frank loved to talk. His wonderful parents were Melvin and Marian Zurn. He was raised on Erie’s waterfront and he loved Erie. As a child he graced the cover of Ladies Home Journal, often being called upon to be used as a model for George Ericson paintings. He was educated at Choate School, Wallingford, CT and he received a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree from Cornell University. At Choate he co-captained the squash team with Tom Kempner, co-captained the swim team, played trombone in the band and held the lead in the senior play as Sir Joseph Porter.

While at Cornell he was captain of the cheer-leading squad, business manager of the Cornellian and lettered in swimming, diving, and cheerleading. Upon graduation he served in the US Navy as an electronic specialist. After serving in the Navy he moved to New York, lived at the downtown Athletic Club and began to sell Zurn Products, mainly mechanical drives to refineries, power plants and the US Navy. He became Director in 1951, President in 1965 and Chairman of Zurn Industries in 1973 at the age of 38. Under Mr. Zurn’s direction, Zurn Industries, Inc. grew from $12 million in annual sales in 1965 to over $400 million, acquiring such companies as, Erie City Iron Works, Griswold Manufacturing, Presque Isle Plastics, Hays Manufacturing, Haysite, Bayview Forge, Erie Engine and Manufacturing Co., General Air, Tulsa Heat Exchange Co, Swaruthwat, Kokomo Indiana, Claridge Fan, The Robert Irsay Co. in Chicago, Vinylnex, Lamar, Cosco Fire Protection, Ludwig Engineering Science, Nepco and Lynx Golf Clubs to name a few. As a testimonial to his assuming presidency of a multimillion dollar corporation before reaching the age of 40, he was elected to the Young President’s Organization of America, Chief Executive Organization and the World Business Council. The extensive experience qualified him as respected author and lecturer. He wrote articles for or appeared before many organizations. Mr. Zurn also addressed literally hundreds of security analysts and others in the financial community. He was listed in “Who’s Who in America” and “Leaders in America Science.” Director of Zurn Foundation, Cornell Research Foundation, Trustee of the Choate School, and St. Vincent Health Center. Member of the Cornell Club of Sarasota, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society of Naval Engineers, Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, the Newcomen Society of North America, Northwestern PA Humane Society and served as Vice President of the Pennsylvania Society in New York. A member of the Erie Yacht Club since 1954, Mr. Zurn was elected Commodore in 1961.

Mr. Zurn is known in the boating world as owner of Kahili, a McCurdy and Rhodes 61 sloop, which was named after his daughters, Karen, Heidi and Lisa. Mr. Zurn was an avid sailor in competitive racing around the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, He won the Mackinac Race back to back both Port Huron and Chicago, Queens Cup, Navy Challenge Cup, Lyman Cup, Falcon Cup and many Great Lake Races. He traveled all over the world and truly enjoyed his stay on earth. A bit of a daredevil he rode the Cresta Run in St. Moritz. As Frank Sinatra would say….he made mistakes along the way….but then again too few to mention. He did it his way. Along with his grandchildren and great grandchildren, he is survived by his brothers, David and Roger both of Erie, sons, Peter of Erie and Doug of Marblehead RI, daughters, Karen and Heidi of Erie and his wife of 43 years, Martha Jane. Private arrangements are entrusted to Burton Quinn Scott Cremation & Funeral Services Inc., Downtown, 602 W. 10th St., Erie. Donations can be made in his honor to the Humane Society of Erie PA, 2407 Zimmerly Rd., Erie, PA 16506.

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Posted online on October 22, 2022

Published in Erie Times-News

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