Wednesday, December 01, 2021

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Nick Zeoli Named Memorial Parade Grand Marshal

Nicholas T. Zeoli, a Saugatuck native and World War II veteran, has been selected to be the Grand Marshal for this year’s Memorial Day Parade, William Vornkahl, president of the Westport Veterans Council, announced today.

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Nick Zeoli: World War II vet. Photo from YouTube.com

The parade will be held on Monday, May 27 beginning at 9 a.m. on Riverside Avenue.

Zeoli was born in Saugatuck to Westport Firefighter Dominick and Olympia Zeoli on July 1, 1923. He graduated from Staples High School in 1942, where he was an all-star athlete: captain of the football, baseball and basketball teams. He had planned on attending Gettysburg College on a football scholarship, but instead enlisted in the Navy.

On June 30, 1943, he was assigned to the USS Boston, a heavy cruiser and spent three years in the Pacific Theater where the USS Boston engaged in 13 major battles, including the battle of Okinawa.

He was promoted to Radarman 3rd Class and received a commendation from Admiral William Halsey, Jr. Hs was discharged in December 1945.

He attended Arnold College where he received a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He continued on to receive two Master’s Degrees, one from Columbia University, and another from University of Bridgeport.

While attending college, he was employed with the Town of Westport as head lifeguard at Compo Beach.

It was during his employment there that he met another Staples High School graduate (1949), Joanne Scott. They were married in 1952 and will be celebrating their 67th wedding anniversary on June 13 of this year.

They have three children: Steve, Chris and Nikki, all Staples High School graduates. Nick’s three grandchildren, Jennifer, Charlotte and Nicholas attend Staples High School and Coleytown Middle School, and are on track to be third-generation Staples High School graduates.

Nick began his career in education as a substitute teacher at Staples High School, but it was Wilton that offered Nick a full-time position as a physical education teacher and head football coach. The Wilton football team enjoyed several CIAC championships under his leadership, and the Wilton High School sports program flourished.

Nick became Wilton’s first athletic director. He spearheaded the development and design of the Wilton High School fieldhouse.

Wilton had the first High School fieldhouse in all of New England. Upon Nick’s retirement in 1994, the Wilton High School fieldhouse was named the Nicholas T. Zeoli Fieldhouse.

He is considered among the best high school athletic directors in the country winning several national awards for leadership and service excellence.

He also directed Westport’s Special Olympics for many years. He was flown to Pakistan twice, and to Bangladesh to train Special Olympics Coaches in South Asia.

He served as emcee for many years for the Sportsmen of Westport awards ceremonies —- winning the Sportsmen Award himself in 1985.

Last June 2018, he was awarded the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) president’s award for his lifetime contribution.

He is enormously proud of his Westport, and in particular, Saugatuck heritage.

Following the parade, Memorial Services will be held on Veteran’s Green.

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