Robert E. Zehnder 

Robert E. Zehnder died in Sacramento, California on 29 July 1990. Bob grew up in Naugatuck, Connecticut.  An honors graduate of Naugatuck High, he attended Notre Dame University for a year before the Academy. As a midshipman, Bob played water polo and made lifelong friends.


Bob joined the Air Force after graduation, and worked in missiles in North Dakota and Germany. He left active service as a First Lieutenant in 1960 and became a solid rocket propulsion test engineer for Aerojet General, near Sacramento. He worked there on the Titan Missile System, orbital engine systems for the NASA Shuttle Program, and hydraulic water jet propulsion for the Navy.  In 1967, Bob acquired a Taco Bell in Chico, California, a venture that grew into 12 Taco Bells. His son, Eric, remembers, “He was a great skier, having taught me when I was 4 or 5, a strong tennis player … and enjoyed golf and fishing with his sons.”


Bob’s parents, Joseph and Louise (Linskey) Zehnder, were a chauffeur and meter reader and a sales clerk, who taught their children to work hard and sent all four of them to college. His sister, Arline, recalls happy days in childhood, swimming and fishing in ponds, and playing Monopoly, where she saw glimmerings of Bob’s talent for business.  Surviving are two sisters, Mrs. Joseph (Arline) O’Donovan and Mrs. Edward (Dorothy) Mariano, and one brother, Donald J. Zehnder, all in Naugatuck; sons Eric and Michael Zehnder and granddaughters Emily and Rachel, all in California.