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Prominent civic leader to be buried on Monday

Prominent businessman, family man, civic, community and religious leader are some of the descriptions that fit Ken Zacharias, a longtime local resident.

A Mass of Christian Burial and a celebration of life will be Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Catholic Church for Zacharias, 97, who died July 18. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery in Merced.

Longtime insurance broker Pete Fluetsch said when he started in business in the 1950s, he looked up to Zacharias, who was president of the Merced Chamber of Commerce at the time.

"He was quite a guy," Fluetsch said. "He was honest, a hard worker and you could ask him for advice."

The first Man of the Year for the chamber of commerce, Zacharias belonged to many local organizations, including the 20-30 Club, Merced Booster Club, United Crusade, Lions Club, Merced Elks Lodge, the American Legion and Merced County Historical Society.

Zacharias was instrumental in raising money and helping build Our Lady of Mercy School and subsequently Our Lady of Mercy High School. He was active at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, serving on the pastoral council, ushering at Sunday Mass and helping establish the Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree.

Local builder John Esau worked with Zacharias for more than 40 years when he was affiliated with Security Title Co. and later TransCounty Title.

"I really liked him," Esau said. "I had lunch with him a lot. You could always trust him. He was a real good fellow and a good businessperson."

Fellow title company executive Bob Ayers said Zacharias enjoyed Merced and all its developments. Ayers said Zacharias built up many friendships over the years and was pretty active in community events. "He certainly was very knowledgeable in his profession," Ayers said.

Zacharias also was involved with downtown Merced redevelopment and served as the treasurer for the Building Industry Association for more than 25 years. He also served on the Merced County Retirement Board, only retiring for good at age 92.

Zacharias also supported building of Merced College in the early 1960s and UC Merced. Family members said he was proud that all his children and grandchildren graduated from college.

His youngest grandchild, Anne Mahacek, was part of the first four-year graduating class at UC Merced two years ago.

Vera Call worked for Zacharias for more than 10 years as an escrow officer at the title company and knew him for about 50 years. "He was a very good boss, the best I ever worked for," Call said. "He was very caring about his employees and set a good example to follow. He always remembered people's names and had such a great memory. He was a remarkable person."

Zacharias was born in Oakland and moved to Merced in the early 1920s. He attended John Muir Elementary School and Merced High School, where he was captain of the basketball team in his senior year.

Zacharias was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Bernice Lobo Zacharias, and a sister, Florence Maxfield. He is survived by two daughters, Judith Girard and Susan Mahacek; two sons, David Zacharias and Don Zacharias; and 13 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Our Lady of Mercy School, Ken and Bernice Zacharias Scholarship Fund, 1400 E. 27th St. Merced, CA 95340.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at

(209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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