Ernest R. ZolnaiOctober 20, 1919 ~ April 7, 2017 (age 97)
Ernest R. Zolnai, 97, of Linesville passed away on Friday, April 7, 2017, at the Meadville Medical Center. He had resided at Wesbury, in Meadville, for the past year.
Born October 20, 1919, in Lorain, Ohio, he was the son of David and Sophia Varady Zolnai. He married Bertha “Bert” May Wright on January 21, 1945 in the First Congregation Church on a beautiful sunny day in Lorain, Ohio.
He quit high school at age 15 to learn the dry cleaning and pressing trade. He opened Stevens Pressing Shoppe on Broadway at age 19 until 1940 it closed. Ernest was a shipper of pipe at the U.S. Steel Company and also a burner and electric welder at American Ship Building both in Lorain, Ohio. He worked as an iron worker building a new bridge over Niagara Falls and his brother Lou was a foreman on the job. At age eighteen, he got his social security card at Lackawanna Steel Company in New York.
In 1942, he joined the Army and was in the CO E 394th Infantry 99th Checkerboard Division Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi. He was given an honorable discharge on August 1943 AP.F.C.AC. CPL.
Ernest and Bertha opened the first dry cleaning store and while waiting for the new business to get off the ground. In 1944, they also were employed by the U.S. Government Office of Price Control Administration at the Lorain, Ohio office. Bertha worked in the office as a file cleric and Ernest was a special investigator for Lorain County, Ohio as an enforcer of price controls in all types of businesses. Many establishments felt the sting of the law by overcharging on the price control listed. Fines were three times amount over their complete inventory! Many businesses had to close up as they couldn’t pay the huge fine.
Ernest was an asset manager for the Commonwealth Loan Company in East Cleveland, Ohio in 1944, and met Bertha M. Wright who was a counter employee at Jewel Drycleaners. His other accomplishments where Stevens Pressing Shoppe, Stevens Dry Cleaners and Plus four outlet stores, Ernie and “Berts” Farm Market, Zolnai Construction, Wagon Wheels Grocery Store, Wagon Wheels Five Furnished Apartment Complex, Coachlite Bar and Lounge, and worked for an independent investigation and claims adjusting office all in Lorain and Amherst, Ohio. He also started Zolnai’s Tree Farm in Linesville and Zolnai’s Home Remodeling in 1965.
He was very active in sports. Ernest was a marathon swimmer and swam Lorain Lake View Beach to Century Park East Side of Lorian, about three miles. He was in many junior golf tournaments. Ernest was an avid softball pitcher with many victories, started with team the Lorain News Paper Boys, the Lake View Blues Sports and the Stevens Pressers who won the Lorains Moose Lodge a state championship in 1938 with pitcher Dale Lee. The Steven Pressers team had such a winning record they were asked to play at Gibsonburg, Ohio the very first night game ever in Ohio!
Ernest was a professional boxer at age 15 and started training at age 12, following in his two professional boxing brother’s footsteps. Zoltan “Kid Zoty” and Steven “Ray La Ray” all fought in the feather weight class 124- 126 pounds. Ernie “The Tornado” retired at age 18, after 39 bouts, won 28 by KO and 5 by decisions, lost 4 by KO and 2 by decisions. “Tornado’s” greatest boxing bout was in Detroit when he was to fight the main go as a substitute. His opponent was Jose Gonzelez, declared champ of the Philippines Island, was to be for eight rounds. Both fighters came out very fast with no feeling out, the first few rounds were very brutal and toe to toe. Zolnai was losing, both fighters a bloody mess and in the fourth round he connected and floored Gonzelez twice. In the seventh round Zolnai was down for the count of seven he then hit Gonzelez with a fast hurting left jab and a punishing right cross, Zolnai felt his right hand in terrific pain, but Gonzelez was down for the 8 count. The referee stopped the bout to check out the fighters, both had bad cheek cuts, eye cuts, and nose bleeding. He wanted to stop the fight but ring doctors checked them out and said any more bad cuts and the fight is over, you guys look like butchered steers. After the eight round was over, Zolnai can only see out of his right eye and had to end the fight with only one hand because right fist was broken. The Tornado was given a unanimous decision but where is the Champ Belt? The ringmaster stated that this was a non-title bout. Zolnai blew his top and asked Gonzelez for a return title bout and he stated, “I fight you no more!”
While in the service boxing came up and he was the “Day Room Champ, E Company Champ and the 394th Battalion Champ!” He lost the 99th Division championship by the worst beating ever and by a fifth round knockout and was badly bruised. In 1936, Zolnai had to leave the Lorain, Ohio Area Boxing. He was coming up so fast and to forward he would have to fight one or both of his boxing brothers to advance his situation. He declined to do so and left the area and boxed in “Smokers” in Pennsylvania, Southern Ohio and Michigan as a substitute boxer. Zolnai trained in Cleveland, Ohio at Johnny Risko’s Camp, who was a tough heavy weight boxer for years known as the “Rubberman” and was championship contender two times. Mike Byers was Zolnai’s handler including his bag and cut man and driving him to the bouts until Zolnai was able to get his driving license extending his boxing career at age eighteen.
Mr. and Mrs. Zolnai designed and built Pine View Camplands and also the Shady Acres R.V. Resort both in Linesville. They worked constantly side by side during their marriage, they were a good team and formed the “Zolnai Enterprises” that was started on January 21, 1945. Bertha from East Cleveland and Ernest from Lorain, Ohio were also known as “Bert and Ernie”.
He was a top honor graduate at the Universal Schools Accident Investigation and Claims Adjusting. His legal training was from the Black Stone School of Law. He was a member of the Internal Claims Adjusting and Investigation Order and a charter member of the WWII National Museum located at 945 Magazine St., New Orleans, Louisiana. Member of Edsel International Club and he purchased the largest Edsel made, a four door 1958 Edsel Citation. Ernest was a life member of the Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion.
He enjoyed hunting, fishing for perch, tending to his large garden where he raised prize vegetables and also had a large wood working shop for the winter times. He loved traveling across the U.S. in his 35 foot Class A Motorhome and spent 26 winters at Fort Myers Beach RV Park in Florida.
Survivors, include his, love of his life of 72 years, Bertha “Bert” May Zolnai; six children, David P. Zolnai and his wife, Marilyn, of Linesville, Robert D. Zolnai and his wife, Louise, of Linesville, James E. Zolnai of Atlantic, Susan May Malinowski and her husband, Gary K., of Pittsfield, Richard E. Zolnai and his wife, Connie, of Lone Oak Texas and Dale L. Zolnai and his wife, Barbara, of Greenville, Texas; nine grandchildren, David Jr., Pammy Sue, Charles, Daniel, Michael, Tracy, Sharlene, Ashley and Karl; and many great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
Ernest was the youngest of six brothers and one sister that he was preceded by, they include, David, Lewis, Steven, Zoltan, Edward, and a sister, Lois at the age of three, from the “flue” worldwide flu epidemic of 1918; he was also preceded in death by a daughter-in-law, P.J. Zolnai.
Calling hours will be Monday from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Royal-Coleman Funeral Home, 6028 U. S. Highway 6, Linesville.
A funeral service will be held 11 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home with Rev. Dennis E. Lawton of the Linesville and Harmonsburg United Methodist Churches officiating. Additional calling hours will be Tuesday prior to the service from 10 until 11 a.m. at the funeral home.
Burial with full military honors will be in Linesville Cemetery.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Linesville American Legion Post 462, P.O. Box 601, Linesville, Pa 16424 or to your local veteran charity of the donor’s choice.
Please share a condolence or memory of Ernest for the family at royalcolemanfuneralhome.com.