Bob Zucal of New Philadelphia, was, is, and hopefully evermore shall be, a ‘travelin’ man. The 88-year-old has traveled for one reason or another — as a child, with his friends, in his work, with his family, and by himself — his entire life.
Zucal was born on the family farm, but moved numerous times to accommodate his father’s work at Joy Manufacturing and in the underground coal mines. Eventually the farm was sold to be used for strip mining and Zucal still lives in the last house his family bought.
After graduation from Midvale High School in 1950, he took up traveling in earnest. An avid outdoorsman man, Zucal explored the area, participating in trap shooting and fishing.
He recalls the time he and a friend acquired a basic boat with one motor. They drove the boat and portaged through miles of lakes from Ontario to 40 miles south of the Arctic Circle, using only a topographical map and a compass. There, they stayed in an old trapper’s cabin. When the weather turned bad, a plane was sent to check on them.
“We were a really long way from home,” Zucal said, “and we didn’t realize just how far.
“Another trip my friend and I took was on motorcycles to Maine. On the way back, while looking for a place to sleep for the night, we spotted this beautiful tree on a roadside farm. After being given permission to rest there, we spread our bed rolls and slept. In the morning we washed up in the watering trough and were invited in for a beautiful breakfast.”
Not to be held to land and water, Zucal was a co- owner of a piper cub.
“Traveling in the plane was a lot of fun,” he said, “but it got to be too expensive. I married the love of my life, JoAnne, in 1961. She also loved to travel, but our four children, John, Robert, James and Maria, slowed us down a little until they were old enough to travel too. Then, we would plan vacations every year that took us touring Civil War battle grounds and other historical places where the kids could learn.”
Work revolved around travel, too. As a firefighter for the Division of Forestry Fire Control, Zucal covered southeastern Ohio. He left that job after his hair caught on fire under his hard hat. Next came a stint with the Muskingham Watershed Conservancy District as a maintenance carpenter, and then as a commercial carpenter for Local 69.
“That job was one of my favorites,” he said, “because we built the Beldon Village Mall. During that time in the 70s, I worked in Cleveland, Columbus and Marietta.”
His final job, before retiring 26 years ago, was with the Ohio Department of Transportation as a project inspector, assuring that contractors’ work was in compliance.
“I was working 12 hours a day, seven days, a week,” he said. “I’d probably still be working if I hadn’t contracted Lyme Disease. I had been walking in the woods, and a deer tick attached to my left hip. It was on a Friday, and by Sunday, I had a full-blown infection. The disease has left me with severe arthritis.”
Lyme Disease has taken him away from his hobbies of fishing and making models.
“I’ve vowed I’m going to build one this winter”, he said, “a WWII model Avenger. I lost the love of my life in 2010. We did everything together. I remember our honeymoon in Colorado Springs in a 1955 Oldsmobile, like it was yesterday. She liked to fish, and we took the children with us. JoAnne was the Deputy Auditor, and then the Clerk of Courts in New Philadelphia.
“Now I manage alone. My greatest enjoyment is watching Ohio State sports. I miss the days when our family used to take a Sunday drive every week. It didn’t matter where we went, we just rode around and looked at the world. When I was a kid, I used to feel like I was just another hand on the farm. Today, I wish I could do that again, To tell you the truth, every now and then I sneak out and take a little drive … just for old time’s sake.”