ROBERT D. ZIELKE HONORED POSTHUMOUSLY WITH 2012 RODNEY WILLIAMS, JR. MEMORIAL AWARD
Lexington, Kentucky, April 28, 2012: Presented annually at the Officer Selection Officer (OSO) Colonel William “Rich” Higgins Memorial Mess Night/Dining-In to an individual selected by the Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Kentucky (MCCCK) Board of Directors, who has demonstrated exemplary community leadership and commitment, with a long history of dedicated service to Marine Corps related activities within the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The presentation of a personalized engraved Marine Corps plaque was made by Mr. Stanley H. Jones, Vice President, MCCCK and Mr.Ed Armento, Secretary, MCCCK, to Ms. Judy Zielke, widow of the late Robert D. Zielke of Lexington, Kentucky:
Following his honorable service as a Staff Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps from 1963 – 1969, Robert D. Zielke embarked on a successful career in commercial real estate, through which he developed and nurtured many long-standing friendships. Like many of those who have experienced the “change that lasts forever,” his Marine Corps experience would leave an indelible mark on how he was to live his life.
Being an adoptive son of Kentucky, he silently partnered for many years in the financial support of a truly unique annual breakfast celebration at Lexington, so that active duty, reserve and veteran Marines could partake in a traditional complimentary observance of the Marine Corps birthday. His financial support of this event brought a great deal of personal satisfaction to him, as he surrounded himself with young Marines, who like those who had gone before them, had dedicated themselves to the defense of our nation.
As combat casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan mounted and Marines returned home with serious debilitating injuries, the Marine Corps Coordinating Council of Kentucky embraced the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund and in 2008 planned and executed a “Salute to the Legends of the Corps,” at Lexington, Kentucky, to benefit and assist the rehabilitation of seriously wounded Marines and their families. As part of a team of dedicated veterans, he fully immersed himself in the effort to solicit donations and sell both tables and individual seats. In addition to his voluntary fund raising activities, he arranged lodging accommodations for the entire 2nd Marine Division Band, which performed at this event, personally greeting each and every member upon their arrival in Lexington. Without his direct and dedicated input to various aspects of this event, Marines from the Commonwealth of Kentucky would not have been able to donate $250,000 to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. At the time of his passing, friends and relatives appropriately honored his memory by contributing an additional $4,000 to this most worthy cause, which he had championed in life.
During 2010, when the Officer Selection Team Kentucky chose to move the traditional Colonel William R. Higgins Memorial Mess Night from Louisville to Lexington, in order to facilitate the travel of Marine Corps officer candidates studying at various regional university and colleges, he enthusiastically assisted organizers with this event, providing significant logistical and financial support, thereby ensuring its success. Although he is no longer with us, his love for this event lives on in the patriotic spirit of the management and staff of the Crowne Plaza Lexington (The Campbell House), where Marine Corps officer candidates now gather annually to reflect on the selfless courage of Colonel William R. Higgins, while participating in this time honored Marine Corps tradition.
Through his association with many in the thoroughbred racing industry, he frequently hosted Marine Corps personnel – active, reserve and veteran – at Keeneland Race Course, in a gesture of gratitude and respect for their service. His hospitality and kindness toward his fellow Marines, whether they be hospitalized in or training in will long be remembered by those, who were fortunate to have walked some of his journey with him.