A Loving Tribute

Donald Zordel

August 14, 1939 – February 8, 2023
Submitted by James Blatter


Mr. Donald Zordel died peacefully on February 8, 2023

Mr. Zordel was born on August 14, 1939, in Eads, Colorado to Zell Albert and Edna Irene Zordel. The family moved to Ransom, Kansas, where Don grew up. He graduated from Ransom High School in 1957.

After a couple of years working on farms in Kansas, Don joined the United States Navy in 1959 and served onboard the Aircraft Carrier USS Kearsarge in the Pacific Zone. One of Don and the crew’s first missions was humanitarian, rescuing survivors of the powerful Isewan Typhoon that displaced 50,000 and killed 5,000. During Don’s time aboard the Kearsarge, he was part of the antisubmarine operations during the Laos-SEATO crisis in 1960-61. As a crew member of the Kearsarge, Don was part of the early Air Cavalry Gunship rotations in Viet Nam. Don’s favorite Naval story was the recovery of astronaut Wally Schirra after his Mercury-Atlas 8 mission on October 3, 1962.

Don was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1963 but remained a reservist until 1966. After his active duty, Don came to live in Aspen, CO, with several of his brothers. Don came from a large family with eleven brothers and one sister. In Aspen, Don continued his public service as a police officer for the city and as a Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy. In Aspen, Don had many famous encounters dancing with Ann Margret, working on Marshall Dillon’s (James Arness) car, and showing Rock Hudson around town.

After working in Aspen, Don caught an itch to travel and toured the American west and Pacific Northwest. It was then he met Colena Haines, and they married in 1966. They lived in the state of Washington, where their Oldest Son, Zell, was born. They then moved to Denver, and he went to work in construction. Don and Colena welcomed their daughter Cuprina in 1971.

For many years Don worked for Kenny Construction Company based in Denver, his work for them is now foundational in Colorado. Don was the lead supervisor in constructing over one hundred bridges and overpasses on Interstate 70 and Interstate 25. He also built bridges in Utah and Wyoming. The construction boom in Colorado faltered after Black Sunday, May 2, 1982. Don moved his family to Western Colorado and took it upon himself to provide for them. He worked for himself for a few years doing drywall in the ski towns unaffected by the faltering economy elsewhere. Tired of being on the road so much, Don took a position with Talbott Enterprises in New Castle in 1986, where he remained until his health forced retirement at the age of seventy-eight.

At the same time, he went to work for Talbott. He took on the task of being a volunteer firefighter and rose to be the commander of Burning Mountain Fire Protection District, which is now Colorado River Fire and Rescue, in 1988. He served the community in this position for the next 15 years. During this time, he helped create joint operations for Garfield County’s Emergency services. He was instrumental in developing the emergency communications center, hiring full-time firefighters, and merging the Rifle and Burning Mountain departments into the larger Colorado River Fire. Don retired from the fire department as chief in 2003.

Don grew up among the farms of Kansas and Eastern Colorado, and part of him was always there in his heart. He was an outdoors person who also fell in love with the mountains of Colorado and even the high desert of Garfield and Mesa counties. He was a devoted family man, always there for his parents, siblings, in-laws, and especially his children and grandchildren.

Don is survived by his son Zell and daughter-in-law Elizabeth, daughter Cuprina and son-in-law James, grandsons Zachary and Christian, great-granddaughter Moxlei, and hundreds of nieces, nephews, and friends.

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