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Orland Park Eagle Scout Candidate's Project Honors Town's First Vietnam Casualty

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

(July 19, 2014 (ORLAND PARK. IL) - Ron Zinn and his family moved to Orland Park, Illinois from Peoria in 1953 when Zinn was 14 years old.

Zinn would go on to excel in academics and track at Orland Park's Carl Sandburg High School where he was named most valuable athlete, graduated in 1957 and would be the first United States Olympian in Sandburg history.

Zinn represented the United States as a race walker in the 1960 and 1964 Olympics and earned numerous track titles around the world. He graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1962 and was Orland Park's first casualty in Vietnam. After being in Vietnam for just two months, Zinn was killed in action on July 7, 1965 trying to save his wounded squad leader.

More than six decades later, 14 year old Eagle Scout Candidate Timothy Klotz, of Orland Park Boy Scout Troop 383, has memorialized Zinn with the creation of the Captain Ronald L. Zinn Memorial Garden at the Village of Orland Park Veterans Center, 15045 West Avenue.

"I first learned about Captain Zinn two years ago when our troop created a historical geochallenge for the village's 120th anniversary," Klotz said. "We included the rock monument for Captain Zinn near Humphrey Woods and when I read what he accomplished, I knew I wanted to do something more because he's a local and national hero," he said.

A founding member of the four year old Troop 383, Klotz has lived in Orland Park since birth and will be a freshman at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox in the fall.

"The Zinn family offers its sincere thanks to Tim Klotz for having the vision to create a beautiful and long lasting memorial to Ron. Tim took this on as his Eagle Project but it has become more than that to him," said Jerry Zinn, Captain Zinn's younger brother.

Orland Park history is not new to Klotz as his paternal grandparents moved to Orland Park as children in the 1930s and his father, Gerald Klotz, Jr., is a third generation Orland firefighter. His paternal grandfather and great grandfathers held numerous positions in the community including fire district trustee, fire chief, deputy chief, village trustee and more. Klotz's paternal great grandmother, Eleanor Voss, was the first police matron for the Orland Park Police Department.

Klotz's maternal grandfather is the late Mayor Frederick T. Owens for whom Orland Park's Village Hall is named.

"I've grown up knowing a lot about Orland Park's history and I'm glad I can share Captain Zinn's story," Klotz said.

Working with the Village of Orland Park Parks Department and Veterans Commission, Klotz secured permission to transform the existing flagpole site at the village's West Avenue Veterans Center into a memorial for Zinn.

"The Orland Park Veterans Commission is proud of Timmy for all of the hard work he put into his Eagle Scout Project," said Veterans Commission Chair Phil Bell. "Not only did he spend time researching for something truly meaningful, but now the memorial garden will give residents a chance to learn about Captain Ron Zinn --- a true Orland Park hero," he added.

Klotz's research into Zinn's life led him to connections between his and Zinn's families.

"I never knew the connections between our families until I started the project," Klotz said."My great uncle went to school with Captain Zinn's younger brother and sister and I found out that his mom and brother worked at my great grandfather's restaurant that was on LaGrange Road in the 1950s," he said. "My grandmother remembered that Ron Zinn and his dad came to see her dad, Paul Voss, when he was a village trustee to ask about getting the letters he needed for West Point," Klotz said.

The coincidences aren't limited to the Klotz side of the family. "Joyce Zinn's married name is Owens," Klotz said. "My mom is an Owens but we don't think we're related to Joyce Zinn's Owenses," he said.

Klotz's great uncle who is a Vietnam Vet, Wayne Klotz, put him touch with Zinn's siblings who connected him with Zinn's commanding officer from Vietnam and his Class of 1962 West Point classmates. Wayne Klotz served in Vietnam after Zinn and flew over Camp Zinn more than 200 times. Zinn's unit renamed their camp for him after he was killed.

"The whole experience has been amazing," Klotz said. "I've been getting emails from Captain Zinn's friends all over the country, thanking me for creating the memorial. He is really loved and respected by a lot of people."

On June 28, Klotz led a volunteer crew of more than 20 scouts from Troop 383, Tinley Troop 442 and family members to create a circular brick paver plaza accessible via a paver path purposely created to give wheelchair bound veterans access to the memorial.

"Thank you to the Boy Scouts and volunteers who put in sweat hours to make this vision a reality. We appreciate that the Village of Orland Park also felt that this tribute to Ron was indeed worthy to be placed at the Veterans Center as a permanent reminder of Ron's and so many others' sacrifices for our country. Thank you to all veterans," Jerry Zinn said.

Joyce Zinn Owens, Ron's younger sister, added, "The design of the memorial garden shows that it was well thought out in terms of location, size and being pleasing to the eyes of visitors. People who see this memorial and learn that it was created by Tim Klotz and Boy Scout Troop 383 can't help but be impressed with the beautiful results of their labor."

"We have a great troop with great parents and I appreciate everyone's help," Klotz said, continuing, "The Parks Department has been awesome. I can't thank them enough for their help and guidance. We really learned a lot. And, everyone on the Veterans Commission has been very excited about the project."

Encompassing three flagpoles, the garden includes a concrete bench, a biographical sign with photos, flowers and landscaping.

Nearly 100 people attended the July 19 dedication ceremony, planned while the Zinn siblings were in town for the Sandburg Reunion Picnic. Attendees included members of Zinn's family, representatives of the West Point Class of 1962 --- some flying in from out of state, local officials, scouts, area residents and veterans groups.

Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin spoke, along with Lt Col USAR (ret) James J. McQuillen, a classmate of Zinn's from West Point Class of 1962. Mrs. Loretta Mogan, who traveled from Arizona, is the wife of Captain Zinn's West Point roommate Bill Mogan who authored a book about their years at West Point. She shared her late husband's memories.

Jerry Zinn spoke of how humble his brother was and shared funny stories. This was followed by the memorial blessing being offered by Fr. Richard McGrath, president of Providence Catholic High School. Attendees sang with Frann Carnivele as she opened the ceremony singing the national anthem and closed it with "God Bless America."

A Facebook page has been created for the memorial, enabling Zinn's family and friends across the country to see it. The Facebook page can be found at

"Some of Captain Zinn's friends have written that they're going to visit the memorial later in the year," Klotz explained. Klotz said, "I'm hoping people use the Facebook page as a virtual guest book, posting who they are and where they're from. That would be really cool."


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